A friend was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for speeding. Along with requesting the driver's license, the officer also asked my friend (the passenger) to produce identification. Is this legal? Since when does a passenger need to produce identification? - M.E. Wilson
Oh, for at least the last 40 years.
Sorry, civil libertarians. Courts have long held that passengers in a legally pulled-over car are fair game for questioning - and may even be frisked - as long as there is "reasonable suspicion."
Check out Terry v. Ohio from 1968, Pennsylvania v. Mimms in 1977 and Maryland v. Wilson from 20 years later. There are a bunch of newer cases, too.
Action Line isn't a defense attorney, but he knows many fine lawyers. It's good to be on a first-name basis with a phalanx of legal counselors. Just in case.
"The standard of 'reasonable suspicion' gives cops a lot of latitude," said one attorney who preferred not to be identified because he didn't want to be inundated with marginally winnable cases involving traffic stops.
"Look, the cops can justify anything as reasonable suspicion. You look at them wrong and that's enough," he said.
Passengers do "have more rights than drivers," said Sgt. Geary Parsons with the Durango Police Department. But not the right to remain nameless.
The only place you have the right to anonymity is by asking Action Line a loaded question.
"What's the big deal unless you're hiding something? And that's where reasonable suspicion comes in," added Parsons. "If you fight handing over ID, that's suspicious."
Take some advice from your pal Action Line. When a person with a badge asks you for a plastic card with your photo on it, just hand it over.
If you have outstanding warrants, you're going to the hoosegow anyway. Don't fight it.
Not sure if you're wanted? Call the police department at 375-4700 and ask to have your records run. Chances are that unpaid speeding ticket from Archuleta County didn't just go away.
Minimize reasonable suspicions by making sure the brake and tail lights work in your car - or any car in which you are a passenger.
And don't hesitate to run red lights. Judging by the number of morons blowing through intersections, red lights apparently are out of the local constabulary's jurisdiction.
What's the deal with the lane striping (or lack thereof) near Bodo? You can't even tell what lane you are in, and I've even seen people end up on the wrong side of the road because the stripe is either nonexistent or so light you can barely see it. Who's responsible for this vehicular game of cat and mouse?
Action Line was all giddy about ambushing a favorite victim, the Colorado Department of Transportation, with a "gotcha!"
But, dang the luck, CDOT is Johnny on the spot. Late last week, crews sprayed new white traffic lines and yellow center stripes.
"Sorry to disappoint by being proactive," said Nancy Shanks, CDOT's good-natured spokeswoman.
The Bodo lane markings took a beating in December, Shanks said. They are only temporary, meant to last during construction and frequent snowplowing scraped off a lot of paint, she said.
CDOT had to wait for the roads to dry before remarking.
Imagine if CDOT sprayed paint on wet pavement and ice? Now that would be a fun column to write.
Thank goodness there's Florida Road as a transportation punching bag - at least until it gets overhauled this summer, at which point some other hapless piece of neglected infrastructure will become the focus of public scorn and abuse.
E-mail questions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if show your license and registration, Social Security card and passport.