The Washington Constitution protects people from unlawful searches and seizures. Article 1, section 7 has been interpreted by Washington courts to prohibit police from requesting identification of a passenger unless there is an independent basis for the request. An independent basis exists if the officer can identify specific and articulable facts that, when taken with rational inferences, justify the request. Washington criminal defense attorneys know that an unlawful search or seizure can occur in any kind of case, including a violation of a protection order.
In a recent case, a Washington appeals court considered whether an officer had an independent basis to ask the identity of a passenger when the driver was protected by a no-contact order. The defendant’s arrest arose from an incident in which an officer stopped a vehicle for expired registration and failure to transfer title. A man got out of the vehicle before the officer approached. The officer learned that the driver of the vehicle had several warrants. He also learned she was the protected party in a domestic violence no-contact order. The officer determined the description of the restrained party matched the passenger who had gotten out of the vehicle. He found that the passenger was in the portable outdoor restroom of a nearby gas station. The door to the restroom indicated it was unlocked and unoccupied. He knocked and opened the door, finding the passenger inside.
The passenger gave the officer a name and date of birth that did not match the restrained party. They then returned to the patrol vehicle, where the officer saw pictures of the man bearing the name given and the restrained party. The officer determined that the passenger was the restrained party and arrested him for a violation of the no-contact order.