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Can a police officer order you to get out of a vehicle?

You get pulled over and arrested for a DUI. During the traffic stop, the police officer orders you to exit the vehicle. You do not want to do it, but you think you do not have any choice, so you get out. That's when the officer observes that you appear intoxicated and makes the arrest.

After the fact, you start wondering just how legal that was. Can an officer tell you that you have to get out of the car, or does that violate your rights?

The Supreme Court

A similar case came before the Supreme Court; it is known as Pennsylvania vs. Mimms, and it is one of the most important cases relating to your rights during a traffic stop. What the Supreme Court ruled was that the police could tell drivers to exit their vehicles as long as it happened during a reasonable traffic stop. They cited officer safety as a reason for this ruling, and they said that it was little more than inconvenient for the driver.

The Pennsylvania vs. Mimms case was not a DUI case, but the same basic idea holds true. If the police had a valid reason to pull you over and then the officer decides he or she wants you to exit the vehicle, you have to follow that order. It does not violate your rights.

The traffic stop

What this means, then, is that you may want to consider whether that traffic stop was legal to begin with. That's what made it legal for them to make you get out of the car. Police officers cannot simply pull over any vehicle and tell the driver to get out. They still need justification for the stop.

In some DUI cases, the reason is the drunk driving itself. If an officer sees a car swerving all over the road, as if the driver does not have control of the vehicle, he or she may assume that the driver is intoxicated. That's enough to warrant a stop, even if the driver turns out to be sober.

In other cases, the stop happens for a different reason, such as a standard traffic violation. Maybe the officer saw you run a stop sign or break the speed limit. Either way, that does then give the officer the right to ask you to get out of the car, and it can lead to an arrest if it turns out that you were driving drunk.

Your options

Just because the police did not violate your rights by telling you to exit the car does not mean you have no legal options. Make sure you know what steps you can take as you move forward with this case.

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