Can A Driver Be Held Responsible For His Passenger’s Actions?

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My 18-year-old son and his 15-year-old passenger, while returning from a trip to Oregon, were each ticketed by Oregon State Patrol for Offensive Littering due to the 15-year-old, without warning, throwing his leftover french fries out the window (not trash, just the fries). The State Trooper told my son that he too was receiving a ticket for allowing his passenger to throw the fries out the window. My question is, does the driver of a vehicle really have the responsibility to control his/her passengers? And if so, how could someone stop someone else from doing something they didn’t know they were going to do?

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Your son will probably be held liable for the littering, as well as his passenger. Oregon appears to assume that when a passenger throws litter from a car, the driver is acting in concert with the passenger. Theoretically, the driver has the ability to stop the car in order to prevent the passenger from littering. If your son can prove (perhaps with a sworn statement from the passenger) that he did not have any warning and could not have prevented the throwing of the french fries, he may be able to avoid the ticket. It is also possible, however, that a traffic court will still presume that he is responsible for the conduct of his passengers.



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Author: House Attorney