U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS rules traffic stop justified after check showed truck owner had revoked license

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that an officer had reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop after a registration check showed the owner had a revoked driver’s license.

Without any indication that someone other than the owner was driving the pickup truck, the officer made an investigative stop that was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

The Supreme Court ruled against the driver, Charles Glover Jr., who was charged as a habitual violator in Douglas County, Kansas, after the traffic stop confirmed he was driving with a revoked license.

The court emphasized the decision was narrow. There would be no reasonable suspicion, for example, when the registered owner of a vehicle is in his mid-60s but the driver is in her mid-20s, Justice Clarence Thomas said in his majority opinion.

Justice Elena Kagan concurred in an opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Kagan said the fact a registered owner of a vehicle no longer has a valid driver’s license doesn’t necessarily mean that person is driving. In such a case, the owner might turn the keys over to someone who does have a license to drive to avoid further trouble with the law.

In this case, however, the deputy had reasonable suspicion for the stop because the driver’s license had been revoked by the state of Kansas, Kagan said. Revocation almost never occurs in Kansas absent serious or repeated driving offenses.

Such a person has already shown he or she is willing to flout driving restrictions, making the traffic stop justified, Kagan said.

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