Kansas v. Glover, 040620 FEDSC, 18-556

Docket Nº:18-556
Opinion Judge:Thomas Justice
Party Name:KANSAS, PETITIONER v. CHARLES GLOVER
Judge Panel:ROBERTS, C. J., and Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined. Justice Kagan, with whom Justice Ginsburg joins, concurring. Justice Sotomayor, dissenting.
Case Date:April 06, 2020
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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589 U.S.____(2020)

KANSAS, PETITIONER

v.

CHARLES GLOVER

No. 18-556

United States Supreme Court

April 6, 2020

Argued November 4, 2019

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF KANSAS

A Kansas deputy sheriff ran a license plate check on a pickup truck, discovering that the truck belonged to respondent Glover and that Glover's driver's license had been revoked. The deputy pulled the truck over because he assumed that Glover was driving. Glover was in fact driving and was charged with driving as a habitual violator. He moved to suppress all evidence from the stop, claiming that the deputy lacked reasonable suspicion. The District Court granted the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed. The Kansas Supreme Court in turn reversed, holding that the deputy violated the Fourth Amendment by stopping Glover without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Held:

When the officer lacks information negating an inference that the owner is driving the vehicle, an investigative traffic stop made after running a vehicle's license plate and learning that the registered owner's driver's license has been revoked is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 3-10.

(a) An officer may initiate a brief investigative traffic stop when he has "a particularized and objective basis" to suspect legal wrongdoing. United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417. The level of suspicion required is less than that necessary for probable cause and "depends on' "the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act."'"

Prado Navarette v. California, 572 U.S. 393, 402. Courts must therefore permit officers to make "commonsense judgments and inferences about human behavior." Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 125. P. 3.

(b) Here, the deputy's commonsense inference that the owner of a vehicle was likely the vehicle's driver provided more than reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop. That inference is not made unreasonable merely because a vehicle's driver is not always its registered owner or because Glover had a revoked license. Though common sense suffices to justify the officer's inference, empirical studies demonstrate that drivers with suspended or revoked licenses frequently continue to drive. And Kansas' license-revocation scheme, which covers drivers who have already demonstrated a disregard for the law or are categorically unfit to drive, reinforces the reasonableness of the inference that an individual with a revoked license will continue to drive. Pp. 4-6.

(c) Glover's counterarguments are unpersuasive. He argues that the deputy's inference was unreasonable because it was not grounded in his law enforcement training or experience. Such a requirement, however, is inconsistent with this Court's Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. See, e.g., Navarette, 572 U.S., at 402. It would also place the burden on police officers to justify their inferences by referring to training materials or experience, and it would foreclose their ability to rely on common sense obtained outside of their work duties. Glover's argument that Kansas' view would permit officers to base reasonable suspicion exclusively on probabilities also carries little force. Officers, like jurors, may rely on probabilities in the reasonable suspicion context. See, e.g., United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 8-9. Moreover, the deputy here did more than that: He combined facts obtained from a database and commonsense judgments to form a reasonable suspicion that a specific individual was potentially engaged in specific criminal activity. Pp. 6-8.

(d) The scope of this holding is narrow. The reasonable suspicion standard "'takes into account the totality of the circumstances.'" Navarette, 572 U.S., at 397. The presence of additional facts might dispel reasonable suspicion, but here, the deputy possessed no information sufficient to rebut the reasonable inference that Glover was driving his own truck. P. 9.

308 Kan. 590, 422 P.3d 64, reversed and remanded.

ROBERTS, C. J., and Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined.

OPINION

Thomas Justice

This case presents the question whether a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment by initiating an investigative traffic stop after running a vehicle's license plate and learning that the registered owner has a revoked driver's license. We hold that when the officer lacks information negating an inference that the owner is the driver of the vehicle, the stop is reasonable.

I

Kansas charged respondent Charles Glover, Jr., with driving as a habitual violator after a traffic stop revealed that he was driving with a revoked license. See Kan. Stat. Ann. §8-285(a)(3) (2001). Glover filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized during the stop, claiming that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion. Neither Glover nor the police officer testified at the suppression hearing. Instead, the parties stipulated to the following facts: "1. Deputy Mark Mehrer is a certified law enforcement officer employed by the Douglas County Kansas Sheriff's Office.

2. On April 28, 2016, Deputy Mehrer was on routine patrol in Douglas County when he observed a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck with Kansas plate 295ATJ.

3. Deputy Mehrer ran Kansas plate 295ATJ through the Kansas Department of Revenue's file service. The registration came back to a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck.

4. Kansas Department of Revenue files indicated the truck was registered to Charles Glover Jr. The files also indicated that Mr. Glover had a revoked driver's license in the State of Kansas.

5. Deputy Mehrer assumed the registered owner of the truck was also the driver, Charles Glover Jr.

6. Deputy Mehrer did not observe any traffic infractions, and did not attempt to identify the driver [of] the truck. Based solely on the information that the registered owner of the truck was revoked, Deputy Mehrer initiated a traffic stop.

7. The driver of the truck was identified as the defendant, Charles Glover Jr." App. to Pet. for Cert. 60-61.

The District Court granted Glover's motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that "it was reasonable for [Deputy] Mehrer to infer that the driver was the owner of the vehicle" because "there were specific and articulable facts from which the officer's common-sense inference gave rise to a reasonable suspicion." 54 Kan.App.2d 377, 385, 400 P.3d 182, 188 (2017).

The Kansas Supreme Court reversed. According to the court, Deputy Mehrer did not have reasonable suspicion because his inference that Glover was behind the wheel amounted to "only a hunch" that Glover was engaging in criminal activity. 308 Kan. 590, 591, 422 P.3d 64, 66 (2018). The court further explained that Deputy Mehrer's "hunch" involved "applying and stacking unstated assumptions that are unreasonable without further factual basis," namely, that "the registered owner was likely the primary driver of the vehicle" and that "the owner will likely disregard the suspension or revocation order and continue to drive." Id., at 595-597, 422 P.3d, at 68-70. We granted Kansas' petition for a writ of certiorari, 587 U.S.__(2019), and now reverse.

II

Under this Court's precedents, the Fourth Amendment permits an officer to initiate a brief investigative traffic stop when he has "a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity." United States v. Cortex, 449 U.S. 411, 417-418 (1981); see also Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22 (1968). "Although a mere 'hunch' does not create reasonable suspicion, the level of suspicion the standard requires is considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence, and obviously less than is necessary for probable cause." Prado Navarette v. California, 572 U.S. 393, 397 (2014) (quotation altered); United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989).

Because it is a "less demanding" standard, "reasonable suspicion can be established with information that is different in quantity or content than that required to establish probable cause." Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330 (1990). The standard "depends on the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act." Navarette, supra, at 402 (quoting Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 695 (1996) (emphasis added; internal quotation marks omitted)). Courts "cannot reasonably demand scientific certainty . . . where none exists." Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 125 (2000). Rather, they must permit officers to make "commonsense judgments and inferences about human behavior." Ibid.; see also Navarette, supra, at 403 (noting that an officer "'need not rule out the possibility of innocent conduct'").

III

We have previously recognized that States have a "vital interest in ensuring that only those qualified to do so are permitted to operate motor vehicles [and] that licensing, registration, and vehicle inspection requirements are being observed." Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 658 (1979). With this in mind, we turn to whether the facts known to Deputy Mehrer at the time of the stop gave rise to reasonable suspicion. We conclude that they did.

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.

The fact that the registered...

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