Revoked Driver License Showing on Vehicle Registration Leads to Valid Stop

by | April 27, 2020

Kansas v. Glover, 2020 WL 1668283 (U.S. 2020)

Charles Glover Jr. was driving his pickup truck on a Kansas road when a deputy ran a computer check and discovered that Glover, the registered owner, had a revoked driver license. The deputy did not observe any traffic violations as the truck traveled down the road. Acting on a “hunch” the driver was, in fact, the registered owner, the deputy stopped Glover.

Glover was charged and convicted of driving on a revoked license. The trial court granted Glover’s motion to suppress based on Glover’s argument that there was insufficient suspicion he was driving the truck merely because it was registered in his name. After the state court of appeals reversed the trial court, and the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the state intermediate appellate court, the United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that the stop was proper.

The Supreme Court held that it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment for an officer to check a vehicle’s license plate, and—upon determining the registered owner’s driver license is revoked and assuming there is no reason to believe someone other than the registered owner is driving the vehicle—to make an investigatory stop. This case may well have turned out differently if, for example, the driver plainly looked like a Carlotta Glover and not a Charles Glover, or if the registered owner’s age was listed as 66 and the driver appeared to be 16.

The Court held that “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.”

The Court stated the deputy knew three facts at the time of the stop: First, that someone was driving a truck with Kansas registration on a public road. Second, the registered owner of the truck had a revoked license. Third, the model of the truck seen by the deputy matched the vehicle registration record. The Court held that “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.”

Eight of the justices agreed the stop was proper. Justices Kagan and Ginsburg concurred separately, suggesting their agreement was premised on the fact that the driver license was revoked, as contrasted with suspended. Justice Kagan wrote, “Kansas almost never revokes a license except for serious or repeated driving offenses.” On the other hand, Kansas, and other states, may suspend a driver license for a variety of reasons not directly related to serious driving offenses, “such as failing to pay parking tickets, court fees, or child support.” Justice Sotomayor dissented.

The bright line rule of Kansas v. Glover: An officer may conduct an investigatory traffic stop upon finding the registered owner has a revoked driver license and in the absence of facts that would lead a reasonable officer to believe the driver is not the registered owner.

This blog was featured in our Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys. Subscribe here!

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

More Posts
Share this post:

The Briefing – Your source for the latest blog articles, leadership resources and more