Government lawyers argued at the Supreme Court that police should be able to search vehicles parked on private property or rented cars driven by people not listed on the rental agreement without a warrant or probable cause. The justices weren’t so sure,
Government lawyers argued at the Supreme Court that police should be able to search vehicles parked on private property or rented cars driven by people not listed on the rental agreement without a warrant or probable cause. The justices weren’t so sure, the Wall Street Journal reports. Police already have great power to search vehicles without a warrant, on the premise that they can quickly be moved or that their drivers pose special hazards to officers. “You’re asking us to expand the automobile exception dramatically and basically make an all-time exception forever,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told a Virginia Attorney General’s office lawyer. A 1925 opinion creating this vehicle exception followed principles authorizing searches of ships on the high seas, not in private homes, said Justice Neil Gorsuch. He called the state’s argument “a category mistake.”
A friend of Terrence Byrd gave him the keys of a car she rented in New Jersey in 2014. Byrd was stopped by Pennsylvania state troopers for a traffic violation. They said they didn’t need his permission to search the car because he wasn’t listed on the rental agreement. They found 49 bricks of heroin in the trunk. Byrd received a 10-year federal sentence. The second case came from Charlottesville, Va., where a police officer searched more than two months for a motorcyclist who had escaped him by gunning his bike to 140 miles an hour. The trail led to a driveway where the officer spotted a tarp-covered motorcycle. Without a search warrant, he lifted the tarp and discovered his quarry, a stolen Suzuki. Motorcyclist Ryan Collins was convicted of possessing stolen property. Collins argued that the search violated Fourth Amendment precedents that require a warrant and that extend heightened protection to the home and its immediate surroundings.