The Supreme Court of the United States is to set to hear oral argument in Kansas v. Glover on November 4, 2019. This case arises out of the Kansas state courts. The Court granted the State of Kansas’ Petition for Writ of Certiorari on April 1, 2019.

Question Before the Court

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court held that law enforcement officers are permitted to conduct an investigative stop of
an individual if the officer has an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. The question before the Supreme Court is whether, for purposes of an investigative stop under the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for an officer to suspect that the registered owner of a vehicle is the one driving the vehicle absent any other information.

Facts of the Case

On April 28, 2016, a law enforcement officer initiated an investigative stop after running the license plate of a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck. The license plate report confirmed that the registered owner of the truck, Charles Glover, had a revoked Kansas driver’s license. The officer presumed that Glover, being the owner, was also the driver of the truck and therefore was committing a crime by driving with a revoked license. Glover was in fact the individual driving the truck and was charged with a class A misdemeanor for driving without a license as a habitual violator under Kansas law. Glover filed a Motion to Suppress the evidence obtained during the traffic stop, arguing that the officer did not have the necessary reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime had been, was being, or was going to occur.

Decisions of the State Courts

  • The district court in Kansas granted Glover’s Motion to Suppress holding that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop without any information other than that the owner of the vehicle had a revoked license.

  • The Court of Appeals of Kansas reversed the decision of the district court holding that a law enforcement officer does have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop to investigate whether the driver has a valid driver’s license if the officer knows the registered owner of the vehicle has a suspended license.

  • The Kansas Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, agreeing with the district court that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment.

Circuit Court Split on the Issue

Kansas Supreme Court’s decision that it is unreasonable for an officer to suspect that the registered owner of a vehicle is the person driving the car conflicts with twelve (12) other state supreme courts, thirteen (13) intermediate state appellate courts, and four (4) federal circuit courts. See United States v. Pyles, 904 F.3d 422, 425 (6th Cir. 2018) (noting “It is fair to infer that the registered owner of a car is in the car absent information that defeats the inference.”). In Pyles, the Sixth Circuit notes the Fifth Circuit, Eighth Circuit, Indiana, Iowa, and Maine among other state supreme courts support such an inference. Thus, this issue is ripe for the Supreme Court’s review.

National Fraternal Order of Police as Amicus Curiae

Crabbe, Brown & James’ Managing Partner, Larry H. James, has been General Counsel to the National Fraternal Order of Police since 2001. The National FOP offer their service as amicus curiae when important police and public safety interests are at stake, as in this case. The National FOP weighed in as amicus curiae in support of Petitioner State of Kansas on June 24, 2019. The brief can be accessed here.