Kansas v. Glover, 589 U.S. ___, ___ S. Ct. ___ (Apr. 6, 2020)

In this Kansas driving with a revoked license case, the Court held that when a police officer knows that the registered owner of a vehicle has a revoked driver’s license and lacks information negating an inference that the owner is the driver of the vehicle, a traffic stop is supported by reasonable suspicion and does not violate the Fourth Amendment.  Recognizing that persons other than the registered owner sometimes may be lawfully driving, the Court said that knowledge of a registered owner’s revoked license “provided more than reasonable suspicion to initiate [a] stop” based on the “commonsense inference” that, in the absence of negating information, vehicles likely are being driven by their registered owners.  The Court emphasized the narrow scope of its holding, saying that the presence of additional facts may dispel reasonable suspicion and offering the example of a situation where an officer observes that a driver does not appear to be the registered owner.

Justice Kagan, joined by Justice Ginsburg, wrote a concurring opinion expressing the view that the stop in this case was reasonable given the particular nature of Kansas motor vehicle law, where a license revocation usually is the consequence of serious or repeated offenses, and in light of the fact that the “barebones [evidentiary] stipulation” before the court demonstrated a total absence of “additional facts” that might “dispel reasonable suspicion.”

Justice Sotomayor dissented, criticizing the majority’s approach for “absolving officers from any responsibility to investigate the identity of a driver” when feasible and arguing that inferences contributing to reasonable suspicion must be based on specialized law enforcement training and experience rather than layperson “common sense.”