Can Police Detain Passengers Traffic Stop ?
Although a police officer may not routinely search a passenger simply by virtue of the passenger's occupancy in a vehicle, United States v. Di Re, 332 U.S. 581, 587, 68 S. Ct. 222, 92 L. Ed. 210 (1948), "an officer making a traffic stop may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop." Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 415, 137 L. Ed. 2d 41, 117 S. Ct. 882 (1997).
In Wilson, the Supreme Court did not describe the officer's order to the passenger as a seizure but rather observed that once the car is stopped "the additional intrusion on the passenger is minimal." Id.
Indeed, the Court "expressed no opinion" on the issue whether "an officer may forcibly detain a passenger for the entire duration of the stop." Id. at 415 n.3.
Although the United States Supreme Court has not so held, "this Court has previously held that police officers may also detain passengers beside an automobile until the completion of a lawful traffic stop." Harris v. Commonwealth, 27 Va. App. 554, 562, 500 S.E.2d 257, 261 (1998) (citing Hatcher v. Commonwealth, 14 Va. App. 487, 491-92, 419 S.E.2d 256, 257 (1992)).