One sees it in films and tv all the time...

Officer: "He's getting away! Sir, I'm commandeering this vehicle. Please get out!"

Is this actually feasible?

Is a private citizen required to relinquish their privately owned vehicle if a police officer requests it, merely so the officer can continue a pursuit?

US Law. Assuming the citizen is legally authorized to drive and the officer has no other official reason to stop the driver. And the citizen is doing nothing to otherwise impede any pursuit.

1 Answer 1


More generally, but subject to the specifics of state law, a person may be required to assist a police officer. For instance in Alabama

A person commits the crime of refusing to aid a peace officer if, upon command by a peace officer identified to him as such, he fails or refuses to aid such peace officer in:

(1) Effecting or securing a lawful arrest; or

(2) Preventing the commission by another person of any offense.

In Washington, the obligations is much narrower:

A person is guilty of refusing to summon aid for a peace officer if, upon request by a person he or she knows to be a peace officer, he or she unreasonably refuses or fails to summon aid for such peace officer.

Washington seems to be in the minority, compared to Alabama.

  • But does relinquishing privately owned property constitute "assisting"? I mean helping to hold down a suspect when asked by an officer - or telling an officer which way a suspect ran - is quite different than giving up a vehicle worth thousands of dollars, which may be needed to earn an income, and may ultimately be damaged beyond repair due the (assumed) chase.
    – Scott
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 4:34
  • My thought is that seizing a vehicle in this manner would fall under "unreasonable search and seizure" as stated in the 4th amendment of the Constitution. And that overrules any officer request regardless of the officer's reasoning.
    – Scott
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 4:43
  • @Scott There is a lot of case law that what would normally be unreasonable, and a violation of the 4th amendment, might be reasonable in an emergency. If there is an imminent danger to life, a court might well hold that the officer's actions were reasonable in the circumstances.
    – richardb
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 7:00
  • 1
    Understood @richardb I could see it possibly if it were commandeering the vehicle to take someone to a hospital (in which case, many people wouldn't have an issue driving)... but to commandeer the vehicle in order to continue chasing a suspect. I, personally, do not see how that would ever qualify as an "emergency"? Frankly, I can't see how relinquishing privately owned property merely upon request is ever "assisting" any officer.
    – Scott
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 7:06

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