Do I Legally Have to Get Out of the Car if a Cop Asks Me To?


Do I Legally Have to Get Out of the Car if a Cop Asks Me To?

You’re driving down the road, a cop pulls you over, and they ask you to exit your vehicle. Can you refuse? Do they have the right to do that? Actually, thanks to the case Pennsylvania vs. Mimms, it’s perfectly legal for a cop to ask you to get out of the car. And yes, you have to comply. Staying inside your car and refusing to get out is likely to lead to much more suspicion being thrown your way, and that’s never a good situation. Here’s what you should know about why it’s legal for a cop to ask you to get out of your car.

Officer Safety

The Supreme Court ruled in Pennsylvania vs. Mimms that it’s legal and acceptable for a cop to ask someone to get out of their car after a valid traffic stop. The reason is that while asking someone to get out of their car is a mere inconvenience for the person exiting the vehicle, it very much improves the safety of the officer. While most people pose no threat, it’s possible that someone could have a weapon hidden in the car or concealed on their body, or that they could simply speed off, injuring an officer or going on to hurt others. Because the benefit of added officer safety outweighs the inconvenience to the driver, at least in the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court, you have to exit the vehicle.

Traffic Safety

Another explanation in the Pennsylvania vs. Mimms case for why it’s okay to order someone out of their car, even for a routine traffic stop, is traffic safety. This is particularly true in a high-traffic area. If an officer asks you to get out of your car, they usually have you stand between your car and the cop car behind yours. This gets both of you out of the way of traffic while the officer writes up your ticket. This prevents the officer from potentially being hit by traffic, adding to officer safety, and it prevents the traffic dangers that would accumulate after such an incident occurred.

Valid Stop

It’s important to realize that the language of this case is very clear. An officer can only order you out of your car after a valid traffic stop. If the stop wasn’t valid, however, asking you to get out of your car is not acceptable and any evidence against you that the officer might have collected after that stop will likely be kept out of a courtroom. In other words, if the officer is profiling you, pulled you over for a violation you didn’t commit, told you that your registration was past due but it wasn’t, or anything else that constitutes an invalid stop, you can defend yourself against anything that happened after that stop in a court of law.

Don’t Refuse

That being said, even if you know for a fact that you’re being pulled over for an invalid reason, do not refuse to get out of your car. It will only escalate the situation and make it more difficult for you to defend yourself in court. Refusing to comply with an officer is almost always seen as a sign of guilt, and even thought jurors and judicial officials are usually asked not to consider refusal as admission of guilt, they often do. Always comply, keep your eyes and ears open, gather any evidence or observations you can, and relay all of that to your traffic attorney.

While it might be tempting to refuse an officer’s orders, especially if you feel violated by them, you must get out of the car if an officer asks you to. Give any information you can to your traffic attorney and he or she will be able to defend you in a court of law. Never try to navigate the legal system by yourself. Your freedom is on the line. Consult with an experienced traffic attorney in your state and take the first step on the road to fighting for your rights.


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