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Search & Seizure Commentary
By John Wesley Hall
A Stop of a Car Is a Stop of Everybody in It: Brendlin v. California
Until Brendlin v. California1 came along, everybody, and virtually every
court, except a majority of the California Supreme Court, assumed that a
traffic stop amounted to a stop of all the occupants of the vehicle,
too. The Supreme Court, in 1979, even said so in dicta in Delaware v.
Prouse. But, prior to Brendlin, the Supreme Court had never specifically
addressed the question.
Brendlin’s facts: Brendlin involved a suspicionless stop of a
vehicle with a temporary tag. Once the vehicle was stopped, the officer
recognized the passenger as being “one of the Brendlin brothers,” but he
could not remember which one. He knew that one brother had dropped out
of parole supervision. He directed the passenger to identify himself,
and Brendlin did, and then the officer determined by a call to dispatch
that Brendlin had a PV warrant with a no bond provision. The officer
approached the car, pulled his gun
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