In most/all jurisdictions when a car is pulled over by the police it is required to stop and the driver has some obligations, usually related providing documents showing their ownership of the vehicle, eligibility to drive and/or insurance status.

Are the passengers under any obligation at all? Are they free to depart as soon as the car comes to a halt? Are they required to identify themselves? Do they have to remain in the car?

I somewhat care about the answer in the UK, but how this varies around the world is probably more interesting.

  • You don't have to stay unless you are detained in the U.S.
    – Tak
    Commented May 18 at 19:38
  • There are alway unusual circumstances. Say police saw the passenger grab the steering wheel. Or tires worn out, police asks the driver if they are the owner, and the passenger is the owner.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 19 at 13:38
  • Whatever may apply in the absence of specific instructions from the police officer stopping the vehicle, there's always the possibility that the police officer stopped the vehicle because the passenger is suspected of having committed a crime. In this case, the passenger won't be free to leave, but the police officer will have to inform the passenger of this if the passenger does try to leave.
    – phoog
    Commented yesterday

1 Answer 1


Depends on the reason for the stop

A car may be lawfully stopped under the Road Traffic Act for various reasons, including that the driver committed a traffic offence, the vehicle appears defective, or for the purpose of administering a random drug or alcohol test. In those cases, the passengers are under no obligation to identify themselves; the driver can be asked to and also asked to produce their driver’s license.

More generally, the law governing this is the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibility) Act (LEPRA) 2002, and it consolidated police common law police powers to stop, require identification, and search.

Focusing only on the rules specific to motor vehicles (because there are general situations when you can be asked to identify yourself), police can ask for identification from:

  • Passengers when they have a “a reasonable suspicion that a vehicle was or is being used in connection with an indictable offence”.
  • “a ‘responsible person, or the person having custody of the vehicle’ to disclose the name and address of a driver where it is alleged that a person has used that vehicle during a traffic offence.”
  • 1
    Some years ago a German almost got himself arrested for drink driving in England. The car was stopped. Police asked him if he had been drinking, so he truthfully said yes. They asked him to do a roadside alcohol test which he failed. Then they said they were going to arrest him. Only then did he figure out that since he was the passenger in the right seat of a German car, British police thought he was the driver. Just wondering if the police’s suspicion was “reasonable”. Obviously not anymore once they saw there was no steering wheel on his side, but before they realised?
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 19 at 13:08
  • @gnasher729 it is possible to be reasonably mistaken. That's precisely why there is a standard of "reasonable belief." But what was the driver of that car doing while all of this was going on?
    – phoog
    Commented yesterday

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