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Maryland v. Wilson

Differing Opinions

Justices Stevens and Kennedy dissented from this decision. Justice Stevens's primary concern stemmed from the millions of other cases that would be affected by this decision. The ordering of passengers would apply equally to legally stopped traffic vehicles in which there was absolutely no sign of potential risk to the police officer. He pointed out that statistics did not carry the number of how many assaults on officers were carried out by passengers. Likewise, no statistics were found showing that the ratio of assaults was lower in jurisdictions that allowed officers to order passengers out of vehicles. Justice Stevens argued that the sheer volume of annual routine traffic stops (in comparison with the relatively low number of stops that placed an officer at risk) would render the ruling of Maryland v. Wilson as a constitutional burden on passengers. "In all events," he stated, "the aggregation of thousands upon thousands of petty indignities has an impact on freedom that I would characterize as substantial, and which in my view clearly outweighs the evanescent safety concerns pressed by the majority [of justices]." He believed that innocent passengers had a constitutional right to decide whether or not to remain in the vehicle. In Maryland v. Wilson the evidence as to why the officer ordered the passenger from the vehicle could not be preserved, since it was of a visual, not a physical nature. Therefore, the evidence concerning Wilson's agitated activity was not considered relevant.

Justice Kennedy agreed with Justice Stevens, and added that the discretion of the officer was valid to the success of this ruling. Even with this discretion, Kennedy pointed out that complaints from citizens and possible political intervention could end the practice of ordering passengers from vehicles. "Liberty comes not from officials by grace but from the Constitution by right," he stated in his opinion.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentMaryland v. Wilson - Significance, A Bright Line Rule?, A Matter Of Safety, Differing Opinions, Impact, Further Readings