The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution reads that: “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 warrants 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.” Washington adopted that language and wrote into their own constitution, under Article 1 Section 7, that “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.”
Once cars and other means of transportation were invented, Courts had to find a way to apply the 4th Amendment to vehicles. Many of you have heard about a “Terry Stop”. This came from the famous case of Terry v. Ohio. What came from that case is that police officers must have reasonable suspicion to pull a vehicle over. This means that the officer must have specific and articulable facts that a crime has occurred or is about to occur for the officer to stop the vehicle.
7000-8000 cases get filed each year with the Supreme Court of the United States, but only 100-150 actually get argued before the justices. On April 1st, 2019, the Supreme Court decided that Kansas v. Glover can be argued before them.
In Kansas, a police officer ran the plate of a truck with a Kansas license plate to verify registration. Through this check, the officer learned that the registered owner was Charles Glover Jr., and that his license had been revoked. The officer stopped the truck, confirmed that Mr. Glover Jr. was the driver, and issued him a citation for violating the law. Mr. Glover Jr.’s defense attorney argued that the stop violated his 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search seizure. That attorney argued that the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull the truck over. The prosecutor argued that the officer could make the reasonable conclusion that the registered owner was the same person as the driver of the car; and therefore, since the officer knew that the registered owner had a revoked license, he had reasonable suspicion to pull over the truck. The Supreme Court is now going to answer this question: “For the purposes of an investigative stop under the 4th Amendment, is it reasonable for an officer to suspect that the registered owner of the vehicle is the one driving the vehicle absent any information to the contrary?”
Now it may be difficult to name all of the Supreme Court Justices from memory, but one that probably comes to mind these days is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. How do you think she will rule in that case?
My guess is that RBG will rule in favor of the driver and the 4th amendment.
RBG tends to rule in favor of the rights that the 4th Amendment protects. A Stanford study showed that from 1993-2015, Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted in favor of fourth amendment litigants in 59.2% of the cases. Specifically, in criminal law matters, she voted in favor of fourth amendment litigants in 62% of cases. The majority of these fourth amendment litigants were criminal defendants.
Here’s a couple of examples were RBG was for the protections of the 4th amendment. In Ferguson v. City of Charleston, she joined in the opinion that “a public hospital’s policy of testing pregnant patients’ urine for cocaine and reporting positive results violated the 4th Amendment.” In a Kentucky case, she raised the hypothetical scenario, that if the lower courts’ positions were upheld, then this would allow police “to go to the apartment building and then sniff at every door trying to find a reason to invade the home without a warrant.”
RBG has made a huge impact in US history and she may not have much time left ruling as a justice. For information on the outcome of this case and how RBG ruled, google SCOTUS blog and check back in a few months.