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April 1, 2019

SCOTUS grants cert on Fourth Amendment issue involving reasonable suspicion

The Supreme Court this morning via this order list granted certiorari in one criminal case, though sadly not one involving a sentencing issues.  Specifically, the new case (to be heard next Term) is Kansas v. Glover, No. 18-556, and here is a link to the SCOTUSblog page and here is its description of the issue:

Issue: Whether, for purposes of an investigative stop under the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for an officer to suspect that the registered owner of a vehicle is the one driving the vehicle absent any information to the contrary.

April 1, 2019 at 09:42 AM | Permalink


One of those cases that demonstrate how vague the term "reasonable" is. Looking at the Kansas Supreme Court opinion, two things struck me.

First, the trial judge apparently found that the officer's inference was not reasonable because it was different from her experience (i.e. she had multiple drivers in her family but was on the registration for all of the cars). Of course, the fact that she might get stopped because her husband's license is suspended or vice versa does not make the rule "unreasonable." It is, however, human nature for judges to be influenced by whether they can envision that a rule might be applied against them in their personal lives.

Second, the State agreed to hear the suppression motion on stipulated facts and thereby missed the chance to have the officer explain why he made the inference. Of course, the State might have stipulated due to the officer not having a good reason for making the inference. My expectation is that most officers could testify that, in their experience, the driver of a vehicle is often the owner of the vehicle -- perhaps even the majority of the time. For the purpose of a reasonable suspicion analysis, that experience that it is highly likely that the owner will be the driver might make the difference in the reasonableness of the inference.

Posted by: tmm | Apr 1, 2019 11:56:32 AM

It doesn't seem crazy to say that you need something more. It doesn't necessarily have to be a lot more, but something. For example, the registered owner is a white male in his 20s and the officer pulled up to the car and saw that it was a young white male. It wouldn't cause a lot of effort from the officers to do that minimal effort.

Posted by: Erik M | Apr 1, 2019 12:03:34 PM

I have a friend and former client here in Lexington, Kentucky who has experienced this problem first hand. About 15 years ago, he was convicted in Maryland of (consensual) statutory rape of a teen-aged babysitter he was driving home. He served 18 months in a Maryland jail and the remainder of the sentence was probated. He successfully competed the probation. His Maryland sentencing Order provided for 10 years on a sex offender list, and he registered. When he moved to Kentucky, he also had to register as a sex offender under Kentucky law, but Kentucky has refused to recognize the 10-year limit from his Maryland sentencing Order. Under Kentucky law, the only two choices are 20 years and life, and Kentucky is requiring that he be registered for life. This man was a decorated Army special forces officer (Major) and is educated and has worked in Signals Intelligence with the NSA and the CIA. His civilian business involves telecommunications systems design, installation and repair. His daughter attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. The car she drove in college was owned by and registered in her father's name. She was pulled over on a traffic stop in Colorado one day. The police cruiser sat behind her car with its blue lights flashing for 20 minutes after the stop, but the officers never got out or approached her car. Finally, a S.W.A.T. van rolled up and heavily armed police surrounded the car and required her to get out at gun point and law down on the ground to be searched. And that was all because the car is registered to her father, a registered sex offender. Despite the fact that his crime was consensual statutory rape, he is listed in a database as a "violent sex offender", which is why the Colorado police brought out their S.W.A.T. van full of heavily armed officers to a traffic stop. Once the police learned the true circumstances, his daughter was released with a warning to slow down. And he was justifiably furious. Who a car is registered to frequently means little or nothing about who is driving it on any given day.

Posted by: James Gormley | Apr 1, 2019 8:52:31 PM

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