On Monday, April 6, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in the case Kansas v. Glover that shocked the criminal defense community. In the Glover case, a police officer initiated a traffic investigatory stop after running the license plate of a vehicle and learning that the registered owner of the vehicle had a revoked license. It is noteworthy that the officer did NOT observe ANY traffic violations. The only information that the officer had was the computer database showing that the registered owner of the vehicle had a revoked driver’s license.
The Supreme Court ruled that if the officer did not have any information to show that the driver was not the registered owner, then the officer is justified in making a “common sense inference” that the driver was the registered owner with the revoked license. This “common sense inference” was sufficient to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that is needed to instigate an investigatory stop. It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court did limit its ruling to revoked licenses rather than suspended licenses, because suspended licenses can be for a number of administrative issues (unpaid parking tickets, child support, etc.).
It is anticipated that this ruling will make its way through the Law Enforcement channels and we will start to see this ruling play out in everyday interactions with law enforcement. Now, more than ever, it is important that ALL drivers ensure that their license, registration, and insurance are up to date whenever getting behind the wheel of a car. Many times these administrative issues lead to vehicle impounds, inventory searches, and new criminal charges. The best defense for situations like this is a good offense – meaning taking care of business at the DMV.