Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Traffic Stop Based Solely on License Registration Check Showing Registered Owner Had Revoked License

April 7, 2020

On Monday, April 6th, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court in Kansas v. Glover held that the Fourth Amendment is not violated when a police officer initiates a traffic stop after running a vehicle’s license plate and discovering that the registered owner has a revoked driver’s license, even though the officer lacked information at the time of the stop that the registered owner was the actual driver. The officer’s actions were based on a common sense judgment that driver was the owner, and this suffices the meet the less demanding reasonable suspicion standard for a valid investigatory stop. The majority rejected the dissent’s argument that reasonable suspicion must be based on the officer’s common sense derived from his special training and experience. The majority stated that this view “defies the ‘common sense’ understanding of common sense.” The majority also rejected the dissent’s view that the majority’s standard would eviscerate the need for officers to base reasonable suspicion on “specific and articulable facts” particularized to the individual. The court concluded that “combining database information and commonsense judgments in this context is fully consonant with this Court’s Fourth Amendment precedents.”

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