October 29, 2019
If a police officer sees a car that is registered to a driver whom the officer knows is under suspension, can the officer stop the car, even if he doesn’t know who’s driving it?
We’re about to find out.
Next Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kansas v. Glover, in which this very issue will be decided.
The facts are not in dispute: While on routine morning patrol in or around Lawrence, Kansas, Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Mehrer saw a 1995 Chevy 1500 pickup and decided to run a check on the registration. Mehrer had not witnessed any traffic violations, nor could he tell who was driving. Dispatch reported, however, that the vehicle belonged to Charles Glover, and that his license had been revoked. When Mehrer stopped the truck, he discovered that Glover was in fact driving, and Glover was eventually charged as a habitual violator for driving with a revoked license.
The sole question for the Court to decide is whether Mehrer had “reasonable suspicion” to believe that a crime (operating without a license) was being committed at the time of the stop. Kansas will argue that, on average, there are only two to three drivers per registered automobile in Kansas, meaning that “the likelihood that the registered owner of a vehicle in Kansas is driving his or her vehicle is no less than 33 percent.” This, says Kansas, surely qualifies as “reasonable suspicion,” which the state insists requires no more than a five- to 10-percent likelihood.
So, if a horse goes off at 20-1, does that mean there is “reasonable suspicion” that it will win?