Can I challenge a stop and search if I was the passenger in a car?
Florida law is tricky when it comes to challenging a search of a vehicle. This is especially true when the passenger of a vehicle wants to challenge a stop. Not only does a passenger have to show that the search and seizure was unlawful, the passenger must also have standing to challenge the stop. There a few different scenarios that will better illustrate the nuances of this search and seizure law.
First Scenario: You are the passenger in a vehicle that is lawfully stopped, that is the cops stop the car for a valid, legal reason. You will likely not have standing to challenge the stop and subsequent search of the vehicle. This is based on the theory that since the vehicle is not yours, then you have no reasonable expectation of privacy to challenge the search of the vehicle. If some incriminating evidence is found, it is unlikely that it will be suppressed.
Second Scenario: You are the passenger of a vehicle that is unlawfully stopped. For one reason or another, a cop stopped the vehicle for a reason that is not recognized as a valid, legal stop under statute or case law. In this case, you will have standing to challenge the stop itself. As opposed to the first scenario, in this case you are being seized unlawfully and can challenge the unlawful seizure and any subsequent search.
Third Scenario: You are the passenger of a vehicle that is lawfully stopped. The cops search the interior of the car and also your purse, backpack, bag, etc. In this case, you will not be able to challenge the search of the vehicle, but you may be able to challenge the search of your personal belongings.
The search of the vehicle cannot be challenged because it is similar to the first scenario above. However, the law recognizes that there may be a privacy interest in an individual's belongings. The interest belongs to that individual only and therefore the individual will have standing to challenge a search of those belongings. So, for example, if the cops searches the vehicle and find drugs under your seat and searches your bag sitting on the back seat and finds drugs in the bag, the search of your bag could be challenged but it is unlikely the drugs found under the car's seat could be challenged.
This area of law is quite complicated and fact-specific. If you have questions please give us a call at (941) 444-5128 to discuss your situation and to set up a free consultation.