Note: this piece was originally published in Reason, and was written by Checks & Balances member Orin Kerr.
The Supreme Court has handed down Kansas v. Glover, a Fourth Amendment case I have blogged about a few times on whether the police had reasonable suspicion to pull over a driver based on a database hit that the registered owner of a car spotted on the road had a revoked license. In a brief opinion by Justice Thomas, the Court ruled that the stop is permitted. The decision was 8-1, with Justice Sotomayor dissenting. Justice Kagan concurred, joined by Justice Ginsburg.
I’ll start by going through the opinions, and then I’ll offer some thoughts of my own.
I. The Majority Opinion
For Justice Thomas, writing for the majority, this was an easy case. It was simply a matter of common sense. Indeed, the heart of the opinion is really just a single sentence (in bold below):
Before initiating the stop, Deputy Mehrer observed an individual operating a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck with Kansas plate 295ATJ. He also knew that the registered owner of the truck had a revoked license and that the model of the truck matched the observed vehicle. From these three facts, Deputy Mehrer drew the commonsense inference that Glover was likely the driver of the vehicle, which provided more than reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop.