SANTA FE – The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday clarified the authority of law enforcement officers to expand the scope of their investigation during a traffic stop to ask a passenger in a vehicle for identifying information.
The high court said the identifying information could include a name and a date of birth.
The court concluded unanimously that a Clovis police officer had the necessary “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity to ask about the identity of a front seat passenger in a vehicle stopped because of a broken license plate light.
The court held that the police officer’s questioning of Hugo Vasquez-Salas was permissible under federal and state constitutional provisions that protect against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Vasquez-Salas was subsequently arrested and convicted in 2018 of possession of burglary tools. He appealed his conviction.
The state’s high court rejected arguments by Vasquez-Salas that the police questioning about his identity lacked a constitutional justification.
He contended a district court should have blocked evidence from the traffic stop introduced at his trial.