SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) –  In a recent case, the New Mexico Supreme Court was tasked with deciding if officers could question car passengers about things unrelated to the reason police stopped a car. The court decided they can in certain instances.

The legal case goes back to 2015 when a Clovis Police officer pulled over a vehicle for a broken license plate light. During the traffic stop, the officer ended up questioning the car’s passenger – Hugo Vasquez-Salas – and ultimately charged Vasquez-Salas with possession of burglary tools.

In an appeal, Vasquez-Salas tried to argue that the police violated his Constitutional right “to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.” Vasquez-Salas argued that simply having a bag of tools in the car didn’t permit the officer to question him, after all, the original traffic stop was for a completely different violation, the argument implied.

Now, the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that the police did not violate Vasquez-Salas’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. In the court’s opinion, asking Vasquez-Salas questions was reasonable, given that it didn’t drastically extend the duration of the traffic stop and because the questions were directly related to the traffic stop (Once the officer realized the car’s driver didn’t have a license, the officer asked Vasquez-Salas if he had a license in order to determine if the car could be driven home).

The court clarified that the officer didn’t just ask Vasquez-Salas questions only because there was a bag of what could have been burglary tools. The court says the police officer acted reasonably because they had reasonable suspicion that there might be a crime – Vasquez-Salas initially lied about his age and was showed “nervous and unusual behavior,” the court points out.