SCOTUS Opinion: Court Permits Routine Stops Of Vehicles Whose Owners Have Revoked Licenses

While on routine patrol, a Kansas deputy ran the plate of a vehicle and discovered that its owner, Charles Glover, Jr., had a revoked driver’s license. On that basis alone, the deputy pulled over the vehicle, assuming, correctly, that Glover was driving it. Glover was charged with driving as a habitual violator and Glover appealed, arguing that the deputy lacked reasonable suspicion as necessary under the Fourth Amendment. The Kansas Supreme Court held that the deputy’s “hunch” that Glover was driving the vehicle was not enough to establish reasonable suspicion.

The Court, in an 8-1 decision by Justice Thomas, reversed, holding that the deputy’s inference was “commonsense” and not unreasonable given the lack of any evidence to the contrary. Studies also supported the inference that people with revoked licenses frequently continue to drive. Justice Kagan, joined by Justice Ginsburg, filed a concurrence, stating that Glover’s “proclivity for breaking driving laws” that led to his license being revoked gave extra evidence to provide reasonable suspicion to the deputy. Justice Sotomayor offered the lone dissent, arguing that the majority’s decision impermissibly “flips the burden of proof” on to the driver, and was not based in “commonsense.”

A link to the opinion in Kansas v. Glover is here: