Last week, the Supreme Court announced an 8-1 decision, authored by Justice Thomas, in the case of Kansas v. Glover, allowing a police officer to stop a car where the owner’s driver’s license was revoked, without first ascertaining that the driver was the owner. This represents a change in the law that will have the overall effect of bringing more people into criminal court.
As the Fourth Amendment applies to the states, the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule also applies in state court. So if the officer obtains evidence against a person by way of some action that violates the Fourth Amendment, then the evidence is “suppressed,” meaning it cannot be used in court to prove the guilt of the person accused. The general rule is that a police officer may stop a car if the officer has what is called an articulable reasonable suspicion to believe the driver has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.
Many officers now have tag readers, and as they drive around they get alerts when the Motor Vehicle Administration alerts that there is a problem with the vehicle registration or the driver’s license of the owner. Before this new decision, if an officer got an alert on a car that the owner’s driver’s license was suspended, the officer could pull up a photo of the owner on the laptop mounted above his or her console, and verify that the owner was driving the car before making the stop. Now if the tag reader alerts that the driver’s license of the owner is revoked, the stop can be made without first verifying the driver’s identity.