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SANTA FE - The state Court of Appeals says a Roswell police officer went too far in demanding identification from a passenger in a routine traffic stop.
"To permit law enforcement officers to ask for and check out passenger identification under these circumstances opens a door to the type of indiscriminate, oppressive, fearsome authoritarian practices and tactics of those in power that the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit," Judge Jonathan Sutin wrote in an April opinion.
The state argued that the passenger was free to go after the officer approached during the July 2001 stop, and that the passenger consented to a search.
"In reality, few passengers in this circumstance would, in our view, feel free to ignore an officer's request for identification or feel free to get out of the vehicle and leave," the opinion said.
The state Supreme Court declined to review the case.
Assistant Attorney General Max Shepherd raised concerns of officer safety, saying officers don't know who they're dealing with in a stop. Many officers are trained to get identification from passengers, he said.
Appellate defender Cordelia Friedman said the officer cited no safety concern when he stopped the Roswell motorist, and testified he routinely asks passengers for identification, as he'd been trained to do.
The officer needed more than intuition to expand the investigation to the passenger, she wrote.
"Nothing reasonably related to investigation of a faulty license plate light implicated (the passenger) in any illegal activity," she said in a legal brief. While the officer could ask the driver for a license, registration and insurance, the issue changed when he sought the passenger's identification.
Shepherd said the ruling does not preclude officers inquiring further about passengers.
"All it takes is looking furtive, reaching under the seat, making movements around a jacket - that's enough for an officer to get some identification," he said.
Sheila Lewis, president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, agreed police still may question passengers with a good reason.
"I think it's a very important decision because it articulates a policy that was being ignored by police officers, but it is not a change in the law," Lewis said. "It's a clarification and an opportunity to educate officers who aren't aware that they have no right to question a person sitting in a car for no reason whatsoever."
-------------------- <~>Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake <~>
so what does this mean? pasengers in cars being stopped by poliece can refuse to give their identification?
"in times of widespread chaos and confusion, it has been the duty of more advanced human beings - artists, scientists, clowns, and philosophers - to create order. In such times as ours however, when there is too much order, too much m management, too much programming and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, they must sow doubt and disruption"
"People do it every day, they talk to themselves ... they see themselves as they'd like to be, they don't have the courage you have, to just run with it."