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Supreme Court Preview: Can an Officer Assume a Registered Vehicle is Being Operated By Its Owner?


In October of 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to hear oral arguments in the case of Kansas v. Glover. Centered around whether or not a police officer had the right to stop and search a vehicle, this is one of the most important criminal procedure cases that the nation’s highest court will hear this year. In this post, our Miami criminal defense attorneys explain the facts, the legal issues, and the stakes in this case.

An Overview of Kansas v. Glover 

While on a routine patrol, a Douglas County, KS police officer observed a 1995 Chevrolet pickup truck driving down the road. For unexpressed reasons, the officer decided to run the truck’s license plate number through the state’s database.

The quick search revealed that the truck was owned by a man named Charles Glover Jr. Notably, this individual had already had their Kansas state driver’s license revoked. In response to finding out this information, the officer pulled the truck over. The defendant was eventually charged with unlawfully driving as a habitual traffic offender.

To be clear, the Douglas County officer did not observe any specific traffic violations by Mr. Glover Jr. Instead, he assumed that since Mr. Glover Jr. was the registered owner of the vehicle, he was most likely operating the vehicle. He made no specific effort to attempt to identify Mr. Glover Jr. prior to stopping his vehicle.

The defense attorneys in this case filed a motion to suppress the evidence. Specifically, they argued that the traffic stop amounted to an illegal search. The case made it all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court. On review, the state’s top court agreed with the defense team — ruling that law enforcement cannot simply make an owner-is-the-driver presumption when pulling over vehicles. 

The Case Has Major Fourth Amendment Implications 

After the adverse decision was entered, the State of Kansas appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The issue before the Supreme Court is the following: Is it a violation of a driver’s Fourth Amendment rights for a police officer to pull them over because they are assuming that a registered owner is actually the one operating the vehicle?

As with other Fourth Amendment cases, the specific facts of the case matter a lot. That being said, the decision of the Supreme Court will set a precedent that could potentially apply to other cases with similar, but distinct facts. This will be an important test to see if the court will strengthen or weaken Fourth Amendment protections.

Get Legal Guidance From Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer

At Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC, our Florida criminal defense attorneys fight aggressively to ensure that our clients’ rights are respected. In some cases, unlawfully obtained evidence may be thrown out of court. If you believe that you were subject to an illegal search or illegal seizure, we are here to help. Call our Miami law office today to set up a free, completely confidential initial legal consultation.

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