Opinion analysis: Justices rule unanimously for driver in rental-car case

Opinion analysis: Justices rule unanimously for driver in rental-car case

The Court rejected the government's contention that drivers who are not listed on rental agreements always lack an expectation of privacy in the auto, which "rests on too restrictive a view of the Fourth Amendment's protections".

After today's decision, Byrd is not entirely in the clear.

Pennsylvania State Police offered a flimsy excuse for why they initiated the underlying traffic stop, four years ago on a highway near Harrisburg. A state trooper who spotted Byrd later in the day believed Byrd looked suspicious because he was driving with his hands at the "10 and 2" position on the steering wheel, was sitting far back from the steering wheel, and was driving a rental vehicle. The upshot of today's decision is that the Supreme Court has made it a little bit more hard for law enforcement officials to search certain vehicles without a warrant.

The officer summoned backup while attempting to clarify Byrd's identity, aliases and criminal history: though there was a warrant out for Byrd in New Jersey, the Garden State had not requested that other jurisdictions arrest Byrd for extradition. They discovered 49 bricks of heroin and body armor in the trunk during the September 2014 search. They told Byrd they did not need his permission to conduct the search because the rental agreement did not list Byrd as an additional driver.

Despite the favorable decision for Byrd, the evidence against him may still be admissible-and his conviction may still be affirmed. First, whether Byrd still had an expectation of privacy even though he had engaged in "subterfuge" by using Reed to mislead the vehicle rental company; and second, whether, even if Byrd had a right to object to the search, the police otherwise had probable cause for the search.

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U.S. Supreme CourtFourth Amendment advocates scored a limited though still important victory today when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that non-authorized drivers of rental cars do not automatically forfeit their Fourth Amendment rights to a reasonable expectation of privacy inside such vehicles.

The Supreme Court's opinion in Byrd v. A federal judge however found there was no violation of his constitutional rights. "Importantly, today's ruling should unlawful stop the practice of pulling over rental cars with the hopes of engaging in a search of a auto without any suspicion of a crime".

Byrd's girlfriend rented the auto in Wayne, New Jersey in September 2014, handing the keys to Byrd, who was stopped on his way to Pittsburgh. The question is whether that would make Byrd "no better situated than a auto thief", who would not have an expectation of privacy in a stolen vehicle. But Kennedy said that additional fees and the loss of insurance coverage have "little to do with whether one would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the rental auto".

The Trump administration had argued that anyone driving a rental auto but not listed on a rental agreement does not have an expectation of privacy in the vehicle. Under property concerpts, legitimate presence on the premises of the place searched, standing alone, is not enough to accord a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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