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State v. Glover - 308 Kan. 590, 422 P.3d 64 (2018)

Rule:

Except in those situations in which there is at least articulable and reasonable suspicion that a motorist is unlicensed, stopping an automobile and detaining the driver in order to check his or her driver's license is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment

Facts:

While on routine patrol, Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Mehrer observed a 1995 Chevrolet pickup truck and ran the truck's license plate number through the Kansas Department of Revenue's database. Deputy Mehrer learned that defendant Charles Glover, Jr., had registered the vehicle and Glover's Kansas driver's license had been revoked. Deputy Mehrer did not observe any traffic violations but initiated a traffic stop based on his assumption that Glover was driving the vehicle. He did not try to confirm the identity of the driver before initiating the traffic stop. The State charged Glover with driving as a habitual violator. At trial in Kansas state court, he filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop. The district court granted Glover's suppression motion, finding it was not reasonable for an officer to infer that the registered owner of a vehicle was also the driver of the vehicle absent any information to the contrary. The State filed an interlocutory appeal. The appellate court reversed, holding that: a law enforcement officer had reasonable suspicion to initiate a stop of a vehicle to investigate whether the driver had a valid driver's license if, when viewed in conjunction with all of the other information available to the officer at the time of the stop, the officer knew the registered owner of the vehicle had a suspended license and the officer was unaware of any other evidence or circumstances from which an inference could be drawn that the registered owner was not the driver of the vehicle. Glover appealed.

Issue:

Did the trial court by granting Glover's motion to suppress?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court reversed the appellate court's judgment and affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court held that the officer wrongly stopped a vehicle based only on knowing the vehicle's owner's license was revoked because no particularized and objective belief supported assuming the owner was the driver, it was no crime for a person with a revoked license to own a vehicle or let another licensed driver use the vehicle. The court further ruled that an "owner-is-the-driver" presumption assumed the owner disregarded a revocation order based only on the vehicle being driven when the issue was the status of the actual driver's license, implicitly applying and stacking unreasonable unstated assumptions without further factual basis, and partly resting on what the officer did not know. The court added that the owner-is-the-driver presumption was invalid because it relieved the State of proving the officer's specific and articulable facts on the issue of whether the registered owner drove the vehicle. The court reiterated that the State carried the burden of proving the lawfulness of a warrantless seizure.

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