Depending on who you ask, a recent Supreme Court ruling is either a significant, if not a draconian shift in search-and-seizure cases that violates drivers’ privacy rights or keeping roads safe when it comes to a police officer’s handling of traffic stops.
The decision was the final step in a case that started with a license plate check in America’s heartland.
A Legitimate Traffic Stop or a Violation of Constitutional Rights?
Charles Glover was pulled over after a Kansas law enforcement officer spotted his vehicle and ran a check on his license plate that revealed a revoked license. He claimed that his detainment involved an unreasonable search and seizure. His attorneys argued that the continued violation of Mr. Glover’s rights would only lead to more stops nationwide and could include drivers operating a vehicle that they do not even own.
In an 8 to 1 majority, the justices reversed the decision by the Kansas Supreme Court that ruled that Glover was stopped without reasonable suspicion. In the high court’s opinion, assuming that the owner of the car is driving the vehicle before confirming their identity is reasonable.
The jurists also cited the frequency in which drivers continue to get behind the wheel after revocation, putting the safety of others sharing the road at risk of injuries.
The only dissent came from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who believes that the decision reduces a state’s burden of proof standard by having law enforcement sidestep what they are tasked to do, identifying the driver’s identity.