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Brendlin's Consequential Treasure Trove
By Michael J. Wrubel
After a Terry stop, can the seizure still devolve into a consensual
encounter without the seized detainee being given advance permission to
In a relatively short opinion handed down in June 2007, the Supreme
Court held in Brendlin v. California1 that when a vehicle is pulled over
for a traffic stop, the driver and any passengers in the vehicle are
seized. Most criminal defense practitioners hailed the decision as a
surprising extension of simple logic by our conservative High Court.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the ruling was the fact that the
decision was unanimous.
Ever since Delaware v. Prouse,2 when the Court initially held that
drivers pulled over to the side of the road in traffic stops were
temporarily seized for Fourth Amendment purposes, questions have
remained as to whether passengers could assert that their Fourth
Amendment rights had been violated when an illegal traffic stop led to
the discovery of evidence used to prosecute the
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