Can a cop legally do anything if he sees my girlfriend and I moving from the back seat to the front seat?
October 5, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

So my girlfriend and I were hanging out in her back seat. Nothing with sex was happening, but then once we finished kissing she moved from the back seat to the front seat. As she is moving a cop notices her and comes over and looks at us. She rolls down her window and the cop makes a comment about her moving. He then asks for her license. She gives it to him. He glares at me (I'm still in the back) and asks her if its the correct name and address. She says yes. The cop gives her a lecture about how perception is important and then goes off. Can he legally do anything?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If he was going to do anything he would have done it already.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:06 PM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure from the sounds of the guy that if he could have done anything, he would have.
posted by orange swan at 6:07 PM on October 5, 2007

Sounds like a cop being a douchebag. If you weren't naked in public, he can't do anything.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:09 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

He did write down her address and name... do you think that matters?

Does anyone know the legal rules of this?
posted by nokry56 at 6:10 PM on October 5, 2007

I've gotten busted by the cops making out in the backseat a few times. Nothing really happens, I got a lecture once...dude threatened to call our parents. Another time a cop just pulled up silently and sat next to our car, I'm not sure how long he was there before we noticed and left in a hurry. Nothing ever came of any of it.
posted by lohmannn at 6:13 PM on October 5, 2007

Relax, if he was going to fine you he would've written out a ticket. If he was going to arrest you, you would be at the station and not asking this question.

There's no law on the books that says you can't kiss in the back seat, it's America, not Iran.

Were you trespassing?
In a park after hours?

It's absurdly unlikely that he would write out a ticket for one of those offenses and mail it to her house. And if that's what he was going to do, he would've take your info and sent you both one.

He was probably bored and hoping to see some skin. Since he didn't, you got a "holier than thou" lecture so he can justify not doing any real police work. Shrug it off, stay in the basement next time if you're that worried about it. Or just go do it in the park and risk a fine. It wouldn't be the end of the world.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:20 PM on October 5, 2007

He did write down her address and name... do you think that matters?

Does anyone know the legal rules of this?
He was probably just checking that she was not on the FBI most wanted list, also were you in a place known to be frequented by streetwalkers
posted by kanemano at 6:30 PM on October 5, 2007

nope, no streetwalkers in the area.
posted by nokry56 at 6:37 PM on October 5, 2007

The cop wasn't necessarily being a jerk. He may have been (and probably was) checking to make sure that she wasn't being assaulted.

Did he handle things as diplomatically as he could have? Probably not. But, lets not pillory the man.

It's even possible that he saw himself as doing her a favor by trying to "scare her strait." That is, discourage her from getting into the backseat of car with a man and thereby putting herself in potentially serious danger.
posted by oddman at 7:29 PM on October 5, 2007

I've know people who have gotten caught totally naked (but oddly not having sex I never asked what that was about) and all they got was one hell of a lecture. I think the cops are generally just trying to scare you enough so that you never try to do it again.
posted by whoaali at 7:32 PM on October 5, 2007

I don't think cops have to file any paperwork if they give someone a lecture. Cops hate paperwork, its in all the tv shows.
posted by Good Brain at 7:52 PM on October 5, 2007

Best answer: Can he legally do anything?

You mean, can he stop people, ask questions and talk? Given probable cause, he can stop and ask all sorts of questions and do all the things that cops do.

But moreover, even without probable cause, cops are still citizens, and can do all the things that citizens are allowed to do. Just like I can roll up on you in public and ask, "Hey, what's going on," a cop can do the same thing. I can lecture you about morals, too, and so can a cop, although there are stickier issues when it comes to things that might happen under the color of authority (e.g. he's detaining you with threats of arrest while lecturing you). It's a tricky line, but it can (and does) get walked every day.

Also, your reaction (perhaps a little combative?) may then provide him with probable cause that allows him to continue investigating (e.g. "Can I see some I.D.?").
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:59 PM on October 5, 2007

Is he making sure she's not a runaway or a prostitute, maybe, by writing down her address and name?
posted by onepapertiger at 8:34 PM on October 5, 2007

The purpose of looking at your gf's id might have been to make sure she wasn't underage.
posted by whoaali at 9:05 PM on October 5, 2007

Once upon a time, long long ago, I was with a girlfriend in the back of a school on a weekend day. There was nobody there, and we were making out. We were both 16.

It eventually led to things other than kissing, and while my pants stayed on, let's just say that hers did not completely stay where they belonged. We were there for quite some time.

When we decided to move on, we walked around the corner -- only to find a police car parked along the side with a police officer in it, on the school property. He wasn't parked where he could have seen anything, and it's possible that he had no idea we were there, but he was studiously ignoring us as we left -- so we assumed he'd stumbled upon us, and rather than give us a hard time or leave us to our own devices, he elected to park at the only entrance to the back of the school to either stop people from stumbling upon us, be present if it turned into something my girlfriend needed to be rescued from, or both.

So yeah, not all cops will hassle you about stuff like this, but there are two reasons why he should have (one of which requires he get the name and address): he has to make sure she's a willing participant, and he has to make sure she's not a prostitute. He got the address info in case she ended up arrested later on for prostitution; he could throw his discovery of the two of you on as an additional count.

Plus, you know, getting the address scares you. So there's that; policefolk are big on prevention through fear.

So don't worry about it.
posted by davejay at 9:23 PM on October 5, 2007

Best answer: He was filling out a FI (field interview/interrogation) card. It's the functional equivalent to work. In general, as others have said, there's nothing to stop him from asking for questions and information. The card will likely get filed at the station. The idea is if you contact somebody who later turns out to be a felon you've already potentially got some information. Depending on which cop you talk to filling out FI cards is strongly encouraged.
posted by ericales at 6:35 AM on October 6, 2007

Legal? *thinks hard* Hmm, legal you say...?

Well I do know legally he can do as he pleases, so legal isn't all that relevant as you would still be fucked either way :)

Don't be 'suspicious' in that area again - would be your safest bet? (And the only concern you may need to be vaguely aware of)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 6:44 AM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: What the officer did is constitutionally OK under Terry v. Ohio. and Florida v. Bostick.

In the context of investigatory stops and detentions, here are a few important principles that should be remembered:

1. Police may stop you for any reason, but are not entitled to any information other than your identification

2. Police may not detain you without reasonable suspicion

Investigatory stops do not require probable cause.
posted by Brian James at 7:19 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nearly the exact same thing happened to me when I was 19. Back of my then-girlfriend's dad's mini-van fooling around, cop shows up, checks her ID, asks her a few "name/address/serial number" questions. Then he took off, leaving frozen in stone-cold terror for a few moments. Nothing else ever happened. We waited, but no letter ever came in the mail, no phone call was ever placed, nothing.
posted by ekstasis23 at 10:59 PM on October 6, 2007

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