Kansas v Glover and the Status of Vehicular Searches

Happy Friday everybody. I wanted to bring you a little bit of a casual video this week as we’re discussing a Supreme Court opinion that came out last month, came out in early April. The name of this case is Kansas v. Glover and I’ll put the citation right down here for you so you can all go read this opinion from the Supreme Court.

Anybody that knows me and that has talked to me before about illegal search and seizures and kind of the status of the Fourth Amendment, especially as it relates to vehicle searches, knows my opinion on it. That that right against an illegal search and seizure has been slowly eroding over time as different courts have interpreted what an illegal search and seizure of a personal vehicle is. Kansas v. Glover is another indication of that erosion of that right, in my opinion at least.

So what Kansas v. Glover was, Mr. Glover was driving his car, a police officer was following along, ran his license plate of the truck with no reason to other than he seemed to be just bored, and when the license plate bounced back he found out that the registered owner of that vehicle, Mr. Glover, was a habitual offender of driving while license invalid, and little minor traffic infractions. So the officer using that information had an assumption that Mr. Glover was the driver. He did not know if Mr. Glover was actually driving, he didn’t know what Mr. Glover looked like, so he initiated a traffic stop.

The motion at trial was to suppress the evidence saying that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop because he had no information to determine who was actually driving the vehicle. Just because the registered owner of the vehicle has a habitual traffic violations and may not have a license doesn’t give the officer a rational basis or a reasonable basis to pull the vehicle over. So it worked its way up to the Supreme Court, and what the Supreme Court ultimately held is that that was reasonable. That the police officer is allowed to make an inference that the registered owner of a vehicle is in fact the one driving, absent any evidence to the contrary.

What this could mean and I’ll be interested to see how this gets interpreted as we move along, is it used to be that if an officer wants to initiate a traffic stop of a vehicle they have to have either observed a traffic violation or have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is occurring right there at that time. I think the way this opinion reads it kind of erodes that even further is if they run a person’s license plate and the registered owner of the vehicle is suspect, or has a warrant for a crime, it could give them carte blanche to pull that vehicle over absent any reasonable suspicion that anything else was going wrong.

So if somebody has loaned their vehicle to a friend, if they’re borrowing a spouse’s vehicle and the police initiated a stop based on reasonable suspicion of the registered owner, but then find evidence of a crime of the actual drivers doing, it’s going to be interesting to see how courts deal with a situation like that. It seems to be that the courts are going to give yet another free pass to the officers and allow them to get away with that because they’re going to, like I said, say that that was a reasonable assumption on behalf of the officer unless they had specific evidence to the contrary. So once again, it’s just more evidence that nothing is safe in your car. There is no such thing as the right to privacy of a personal vehicle. If you get pulled over, it will get searched, there’s very little that anybody can do about it.

Of course, the advice never consent to a warrantless search of the vehicle still stands, but it’s making jobs of defense lawyers even harder when we go to try to fight those searches in court because even now the Supreme Court is giving kind of all ties go to the base runner, all the corners are going to go to the officer, and that car, that vehicle, that truck, is going to get searched whether you like or not.

So we’re going to keep our eye on this moving forward. As always, if you have questions, if you have thoughts, if you have comments, please feel free to reach out, leave them here. Send me an email, give me a call, I’m always willing to talk about this stuff with you. I hope everybody’s staying safe out there doing everything they can to stay productive from home. Hopefully this worst is behind us, but we’re going to keep doing what we have to do to get through this together safe, and we’re going to turn out well on the other side. So look forward to seeing you guys all again next week. Thanks again, and stay safe.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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