Legal Docket, Episode 8:Reasonable Searches


From World Radio and the team that brings you the world and everything in it. This is the legal docket podcast. In the nine hundred, Ninety, seven, movie liar liar actor Jim. Carrey plays a lawyer named Fletcher Reid he's got a problem a character flaw. He's a liar. He even lies about why he didn't show up for his own son's birthday party. That FIB was just too much for his son. Who makes a wish he wishes his dad would have to go one whole day telling the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not a single lie either by comission or by omission. In Fletcher reads typical haste in life he drives through town violating traffic rules Galore. Soon he's pulled over an officer asks him a question and because of his sons wish Fletcher read has to answer truthfully. Hawaiian pulls you over depends on how long you were following me. Why don't we just take it from the? Here coups sped. Paul too closely I ran a stop sign I almost hit a Chevy I spent some more failed to yield at a crosswalk I changed lanes the intersection I changed lanes without signalling while running a red light me. Is that all. I have unpaid parking tickets. Traffic stops happen a lot in this country. Nineteen million times in two thousand fifteen that's the last year of statistics available from the Department of Justice it's during traffic stops that most people encounter the police about half of those stops result in a ticket the majority of people who are stopped report that all things considered they're treated fairly. But Charles Glover. Differently, in two thousand, sixteen glover was driving along in his Kansas hometown, not breaking any observable traffic roles. Nearby patrolman mark mayor ran a computer check on the license plate of Glover's ninety-five shop pickup truck. He learned that the owner of that truck had a revoked driver's license. Cold Glover over assumed that the driver was also the owner, the owner with the revoked driver's license. Mayor charged glover with driving as a habitual violator. Glover thought that assumption was not a good enough reason to stop him. So he got a lawyer he sued for violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Believe it or not. This traffic matter wound up before the US Supreme Court. Hi. Families and solve with. That I will administer justice. Without The person that I work. and. The constitution of the. Well. The duties of the Office on which I'm about to enter. Log help. ME. Gone. Help me God. Welcome to legal docket I'm Mary Record and I'm Jenny rough. This podcast is from the team that brings you the world everything in. Public Justice Supreme Court of the. States come with US inside the world of the Supreme Court as we look more deeply into current disputes and how they make a difference to your life. Before all the honorable the Supreme Court of the United Vermont as we've chosen a handful of cases from this past term that we think you will find thought provoking and worthy of deeper consideration today a routine traffic stop with a possible fourth amendment violation. Guard gave the United States in this audible. Support for the legal docket podcast comes from listeners like you world is grateful for your generosity, which makes possible. The journalism that powers this program W. N. G., dot org slash. Donate. I called a patrolman mark mayor to find out what happened that day four years ago on Zoom, I saw a forty something year old man with a shiny bald head and friendly smile lines It was twenty eight of April about proximity seven, thirty in the morning. So it would have been just shortly after my shift started, we work a twelve hour shift either seven in the morning till seven at night or vice versa. He, described the location the way policemen do he'd been westbound on twenty third street approaching fifty nine highway in Lawrence Kansas in Douglas County. So that intersection in particular in our jurisdiction is probably one of if not the busiest intersections as far as traffic patterns flow traffic excetera. I was stopped at a red light. And I had vehicles all around me. And as I sat in traffic at the Red Light, I took the opportunity to proactively gather intelligence on the vehicles around me, which would basically include running any visible registration or license plate number of a vehicle that was in view of mine. Other parts of the country have automated license plate readers, AL PR's in their patrol cars. Those can run license plate checks by the hundreds from every direction whether on parked vehicles or moving vehicles. Officer mayors situation is different correct correct. In my case, it would have just been a manual entry. You know it was vehicles around me that potentially could be involved in some sort of violation of the law again whether it's just A. Traffic Infraction or in this case, a misdemeanor crime. Drive on a revoked license I use to that time by entering the license plate numbers and just seeking. What information I could from the state database, he recognized the name on one of the registrations from the database Charles Glover Mirror flipped on his lights and pulled over the vehicle, and so as I approached the window of his vehicle after initiating this traffic, stop Mr Glover, new me and I knew him and it was a fairly friendly exchange. If you will Mr Glover actually was an individual who I had known previously from my time when I worked in the jail before I came out on patrol. A repeat offender as far as his driving. And so I was familiar with him as soon as I ran the registration as you'll find out these particular facts had a great deal to do with how the case turned out now I reached out to Charles Glover and many of his relatives either I didn't hear back from them or I. got an outright thanks but no thanks from Glover's lawyers so we'll set it up as best we. Can. Without them gloves driving along in his truck minding his own business officer mayor runs the license plate number for no reason except that he can. He learns that whoever owns the truck has revoked driver's license, and this is the problem according to Glover's lawyer Sarah Harrington says, it's wrong to assume that the person with the revoked license is also the driver of the vehicle listen to Harrington during. November twenty nineteen arguing four glover and against Kansas. Kansas on the United States asked this court to adopt a bright line. Rule that it is always reasonable to assume that a car is being driven by I'm licensed owner just simply assert that it is common sense in every circumstance and in every community in the country. But that's not true and that's not how the fourth amendment works. Well. How does the fourth amendment work and what's reasonable to assume what the fourth amendment says? The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated. And no warrant shall issue. But upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. Unreasonable searches probable cause. Let's break that down a little I called up a law school classmate of mine who went into criminal law practice. After graduation I'm at Brown and I've been a criminal defense lawyer in the city Saint Louis for over thirty years. I asked Brown to explain probable cause the standard the government must meet before it can search or sees a personal belongings brown contrasts. Probable cause with the reasonable suspicion standard. The difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion is that with probable cause, any reasonable person would know their crime is being committed reasonable suspicion on the other hand in the words supreme. Court means only something more than an inarticulate able launch got to be more than just a feeling in your belly. Now, let's take a minute here and consider that probable. Cause is language from the fourth amendment. Reasonable suspicion is language from a Supreme Court case, famous case Terry Versus Ohio from back in the sixties where the Supreme Court allowed a search based on only reasonable suspicion. Sometimes, a police officer can use his common sense and is training to know that something isn't right and pursue the matter in question however, he cannot seize or search things only. Based upon reasonable suspicion, there has to be some sort of probable cause that case versus Ohio is where that language of reasonable suspicion came from briefly the facts in that case, a police officer thought John Terry and two other men were just about to commit a robbery. So he stopped and frisked the men in the process. He found weapons. Terry received a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon. Terry's lawyer argued this was a search and seizure not based on probable cause in violation of the fourth amendment listen to part of that oral argument from Nineteen Sixty, seven lawyer for the state. Ruben. Pain defended the police officer who stopped and frisked on a hunch. Lawyer pain is asked how can there be probable cause if nothing illegal has yet been observed I understand that to me taking into consideration the tower. Of the circumstances as the responsible person views it at that particular time in relation to his work, for example, the police officer here. Taking an toto tower. These circumstances as he observes. Under the conditions which he observes them. That the conduct that existed. The. IDEA. That may be flow from conduct he has observed here. Debbie. Off. Thurgood Marshall Seemed incredulous about that. He pressed further on pain just where does an officer get expertise to predict someone is about to commit a crime The. To listen carefully to those has his voices fainter on this recording. Brain. Rest. Justified, did he not? Never seen anybody please join Is Correct. So where? Routine. I have a team will get his expertise. By, virtue of the fact that he had been a member of the police department for forty years. And by being a member of the Police Department for Forty Years I'm quite sure. By osmosis, some knowledge would have come to him of various degrees. Names. Intuition. A moment of levity in a very serious case not near intuition pain replied, he offered the example of a lawyer who spends time with a police officer over several years that lawyer would gain knowledge about practical policing aspects of human behavior and the Law Justice Marshall wound up joining the eight to one majority in favor of the officer. Terry. Versus Ohio found that the officer had the right to detain someone under certain specified circumstances. The officer had a reasonable suspicion to detain Terry. That's something more than a feeling in the belly. Brown described reasonable suspicion is a particularized objective basis for suspecting someone the officer wants to stop based on totality of circumstances. It allows for the human factor of police experience, background and training but still glover says that one fact that got pulled over having a revoked license isn't enough to reach that reasonable suspicion standard. You can't just assume that the owner is the driver one world radio listener told us his story my dad, and I don't share the same name but I do drive his car and the car's registered under his name and I got pulled over maybe four or five times because. There's there's a warrant out for my dad's arrest and. And he's out of state. So that's every time they ran the the the license. It would show that there's a warrant out for the owner of that cars arrest for this driver, an inconvenient and embarrassing situation, and so they would always ask me if I had something to drink. Just. Because my dad's had a couple of DUI's and that's the reason there's a warrant out for his arrest. So that's what they would always ask me and then I would explain the situation it's I'm driving the car. Than they would let me go so that turned out. Alright. But was he a public safety hazard? No, could he do something wrong. Was this a hassle. Yes. Multiplied by millions of people who own cars and lots of people who also have suspended revoked expired licenses and who have family or friends using their vehicles. You've got a whole lot of people getting half just Ginsburg cast about for a solution for that assumption problem of assuming the registered owner is also the driver and having the clause for the suspension can be a number of things that. Have nothing to do with safety on the roads. It could be I didn't pay my fine in pay. What course doesn't say anything about the driver's ability to drive safely. That's just an was there a way of finding out why the license was suspended the technology of it was their easy way push button to say, oh, so the regs owners driver's license has been suspended because we're so it's not in the record but. My understanding is the answer is no but even if their assumption of owner equals driver also bothered Justice Elena Kagan, she spun a scenario to test the waters with the Solicitor General who argued in support of Kansas and the officer suppose that a municipality has a law that says, everybody has to carry their driver's license with them at all times and suppose that a particular police department actually did a survey or you know. A study of their practices and found that actually fifty percent of teenagers do not carry their driver's license with them at all times. All right. So now it's common sense that if you see a teenager, she won't be carrying her driver's license with her does that give the police officer the ability to stop every teenager that he sees generally not your lover's lawyer Sarah Harrington extended justice kagan scenario to argue for her side. Say a rule that police must have some common sense reason to pull someone over. But not only that the reason must be something the courts can review like local statistics the weather at the time. Justice. Samuel Alito thought that could easily get out of hand trying to check with headquarters as to the basis for the license suspension. Whether it's an urban area or rural area some place in between other, it's a highway or a city street whether it's raining whether it's dark maybe whether it's a law abiding community where people who have suspended licenses never. The officer has to take into account all those no need to go that far. Harrington answered. But still something more than the single fact of suspended license. Justice. Steven brier tried to get at that something more glover had lost his license. That's a fact. The officer would probably say that in his experience people who own cars are also likely to be the driver you want to add other things what other things and if there were other things that were relevant to this one call the officer. And ask him. About them. and. If you want to say, no, no, it's not that some reasonable given my fact. Even. My back. You probably didn't say that because actually the statistics show. Seventy five percents, sixty percents, but not your daughter to okay we're into that. But what is it? What is it that you think that extra thing in the facts here that should have been in Like, ten things he could have done and he didn't do anything I. Say, that I said, what is it? I'm not talking about what he might have done. Yeah. I'm thinking why justice? Sonia Sotomayor my owner was more skeptical of an officer assuming anything officers in some other legal cases offered something more tangible in most of the others to justice courses just talking about. The officer doesn't say I assume. He says something more like this has been my experience or this is the training. Or the statistics that you put into the record in this case are percentage to the judge. Why is the Supreme Court? Better. Able. Than the trial cord. Who's the finder of fact? To, make decisions about what common sense teaches. Common Sense doesn't always align with the statistics about other important issues like privacy. That's what the electronic privacy. Information Center says epoch for short epic is a public interest research. Group that focuses on privacy and civil liberty in the information age it filed one of several Miki in support of Charles Glover. Megan Yorio is a lawyer they're the information age means more police departments will get a L. PR's the automated license plate readers. Nearly every police department in large cities uses them almost all small cities Ma'am and studies have shown that most departments that have not already adopted them are looking to do so when they have the funds to do so remember officer mayor did not use an AL PR on the truck. Charles Glover was driving your nose concern is that more people will be stopped based upon a single. There's problems with that, and one is that the computer might be wrong There might be a database error. Another problem is that the Alpa are Mike read the license plate wrong and this distracts cops from from doing the work that we expect them to do when when they're on traffic patrol and what traffic laws are meant to protect against, and that's unsafe driving lease overreach is one of her other concerns. That's no. What if scenario either Yorio goes on with a real life example in Port Arthur Texas police used. Pr's to stop people based solely on unpaid traffic tickets. They forced the drivers to pay on the spot or else haul them off to jail, and in two years they jailed fifteen hundred people. In, this town of fifty, five, thousand, the other issue with the single fact. Plus Ale. Pr reasonable suspicion situation is that AOL PR's are most often used like like other surveillance equipment are most often found in low income and majority people of Color. neighborhoods sell disparate impact on people who can least afford to pay fines or fees. It shows how single. Facts combined with this new technology can sharply change the way that traffic enforcement happens. But again, that isn't the situation in Kansas that state mostly only suspended licenses for traffic violations not failure to pay fines or fees. Another group that filed an amicus brief is world's largest organization of sworn enforcement officers. The fraternal order of police it's supports the stance of Kansas. And Officer Mayor Larry James Is General Counsel I ask James About that disparate impact concern on poor or minority populations I think the question becomes you're on the road the license check does not infer that the officer has a predisposition of either the individual being minority or being poor James explained that an unlicensed driver can't get auto insurance and that in. Turn poses a danger to the public in case of an accident yet, another reason for police to be able to check license plates randomly of course, Jim News when that information is relate to that officer does he or she has sufficient information to a reasonable degree of an officer similarly situated to conclude that it's very likely that this individual driving the car. Is unlicensed or the license had been revoked or suspended dust. The car is uninsured and that is a crime and it's a danger to the public officer mayor pointed out another benefit to the status quo allowing stop based on random checks. The very waste of what I can do when I'm out there, and of course, it's the very least as far as intrusiveness as well because I'm not actually stopping vehicles to gather that information. There's view the fines, fees and justice center. It filed an amicus brief in support of Glover along with the Cato Institute the Southern Poverty Law Center and the R Street Institute quite a span of ideological perspectives among that group. I was surprised by that. Lisa. Foster is president of the fines fees and justice center. She pointed out how the status quo hurts low income people. The most Kansas said our officers have to be able to stop these people because. The Public Safety Problem People suspended licenses are dangerous drivers, and that is not in fact, the case instead foster told me other states suspend licenses for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with public safety. They'll suspend a license if the person fails to pay their child support. Many drug offenses carry an automatic license suspension even if a car had nothing to do with the fence, but the single largest category of suspensions in the United, states is when a person cannot afford to pay their fines and fees. Fraudsters said forty two states. Now, you suspension of driver's licenses to collect debt. So to give an example in Florida. Seventy percent of the licenses suspended annually by the State of Florida are suspended for non payment of court finding fees seventy percent. In Ohio it's sixty two percent in Wisconsin it's fifty six percent but that's not Kansas according to government documents only about ten percent of licensed drivers in that state are suspended for unpaid fines and fees yet foster pointed out the arbitrary approach of fines and fees is currently used elsewhere. Attempting way of raising money. It's very easy for lawmakers to just sort of blithely add things. I mean, California's a great example the fees that attached to every traffic ticket they fund eighteen different state agencies including the fishing game service and the Department of Emergency Management, and the medical air transport system being things that have nothing to do with on the other side is Helen Witty. She's president of mothers against drunk driving a group that also filed into, make us brief but in support of Kansas and Officer Mirror. What he the problem is a majority of people who've lost their licenses do keep driving. A licenses suspended usually for a big deal. I mean it's I don't think that a licensed get suspended for nothing, and unfortunately a person might have to get to work or have to get their children to school. But also it does indicate a disregard for the law unfortunately for many people they continue to drive and they continue to drink and drive. So views pro and con as to what facts given officer a reasonable suspicion to make a vehicle stop. How do you think the Supreme Court decided Justice Samuel Alito, put it rather provocatively to glover's lawyer during oral arguments. What you're proposing is either trivial decision or a revolutionary decision. It's trivial decision if all this lacking here is a statement I've been trained that Blah Blah Blah. It's a revolutionary decision if in every. Case involving reasonable suspicion, there has to be a statistical showing or an examination of all the things that you think are necessary here is that. What we're asking for is that the ordinary fourth amendment contextual analysis be required in every case, it doesn't require statistics. In every case, it doesn't require any magic words. It just requires something to support the reason. Well that something didn't turn out the way. Harrington argued it should rather the justices we're convinced by wet Kansas Attorney. General Toby Krause argued the fourth amendment does not and should not apply differently based upon the agent experience of the officer or the time of day of the fourth amendment. The rule the respondents propose would require the officers to let this vehicle go. because. It's impossible to identify the states have a strong interest in regulating the roadways and they have a strong law enforcement interest. For example, if there was a report of a child had been abducted and we were looking for the mother, the officers would be reasonable to rely on the license plate krause extended that reasonableness to the officer. In this case here, deputy mayor relied upon commonsense understanding that a registered owner given the pervasiveness of automobile use in the United States was likely to be driving again, warranted additional investigation it would have been poor police work for. Deputy mayor not to initiate the Stop in this case and investigate further to confirm or dispel his suspicion, and that's how the Supreme Court decided by vote of Eight to one an investigative traffic stop made after learning vehicles registered owner has a revoked license is reasonable under the fourth amendment with a caveat though if the officer has other information to negate the inference that it is the owner driving the vehicle then that stop is not okay. For example, if the registered owner is listed as male and the driver is observed to be female than the officer wouldn't be. Reasonable to assume the owner and the driver are the same person and the court reiterated that the level of suspicion required is less than what's necessary for probable cause quote. It depends on the factual and practical considerations in everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men not legal technicians act, and that's true. Even when it isn't always the case that the driver isn't the owner the majority pointed to empirical studies that show drivers with suspended or revoked licences frequently do continue to drive so that combined with the information from the database and commonsense judgment forms a reasonable. Suspicion, sufficient to thank specific individual is engaged in certain criminal activity. Officer mayor was quite relieved by this decision given that the Kansas Supreme Court below had faulted him for making an assumption. This word of assumption came up in the Kansas Supreme Court ran with that and said, well, deputy mayor just made an assumption that the registered owner was driving an assumption is nothing more than just a wild guess and you have to have more than a wild guess to seize it individual driving down the roadways but the justices reversed and remanded the Kansas Supreme Court's assessment is. Lightning wants this case made its way to the Supreme Court that In particular justice gorsuch he said, you know inference assumption. We're basically playing word games. He said in reality. Are we just saying the same thing officer made a decision? Based off of his collective training experience and again call it sumptious. Called an inference but it all means the same thing. Justice. Kagan and Ruth Bader GINSBURG. They pointed out different facts would produce a result for example, in another jurisdiction where licenses are taken away for reasons other than public safety like not paying fines and fees justice. Sonia Sotomayor was the lone dissent she worried about demographic profiling. She didn't believe driving on a revoked license necessarily means a disregard for the Law Justice Sotomayor believes this ruling will absolve officers from any responsibility to investigate the identity of the driver when it's feasible to do so. Larry James General Counsel for the Fraternal Order of police summed up the opinion this way it was a very limited ruling. It does not give a cart blind green light for officers to go out and stop individuals when other reasonable investigatory techniques should have been employed or work employed in or ignored I don't see it have that far reaching the fact one could take a philosophical position that there should be a reasonable suspicion based on something more than the officers saying this individual is unlicensed or has a license revoked is the owner of the car and therefore it's probably him or her now. But the court says is you still have a reasonable time to stop the individual ads for the license or asthma the verification in that standard or requirement has not changed. For Officer Mirror this routine traffic stop was anything but. The fact that Amir encounter based on a traffic stop and the issuance of a traffic citation would reach all the way to the highest court in our country was. Was Really. Pretty mind blowing for me. And he's mindful that his power to detain and investigate is a very serious thing. When I was a training officer, you know I've made it very clear to people you need to make sure that you have lawful authority when you make these contacts. because. If in fact you do take someone into custody, you have deprived them of their freedom and that's something that you know you and I and every American values tremendously as as the ability to be free of government intrusion without a reason. Legal docket is produced by the creative team. World Radio I'm Mary Record and I'm Jenny Rock we're the hosts each week our script editors are Nick Eicher JC. Derek technical engineer is rich razzle and our producer is Paul Butler. We'd love to hear from you our email addresses legal docket at W. N. G. Dot Org. Send US your questions or comments, and we'll see if we can address those in future episodes an upcoming segments on the world and everything in it. Again, our email address is legal talk at W. N.. G. Dot Org? While you're at it. Can you take a moment and leave a comment about the program wherever you listen to this podcast comments and reviews are a great way to get the word out. Thanks for listening. For just two more weeks you'll be hearing legal docket on the world and everything in it. Each Saturday episode nine airs right here. Next week September twenty sixth. Release legal, doc as a standalone series, and we published new episodes on that feed each Tuesday. So if you WANNA listen sooner and help others find this new podcast, you can subscribe by searching for legal docket on Apple podcasts stitcher or wherever you listen.

Coming up next