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Police Can Stop Vehicle if Registered Owner’s License is Revoked

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, including when a police officer makes a traffic stop. Generally, police officers may stop a vehicle to investigate if they have an articulable reasonable suspicion that the vehicle is subject to seizure or a person in the vehicle has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. The police cannot randomly stop a vehicle.

An office must be able to identify specific facts and evidence giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that a crime is, has been, or will be committed before they can stop a vehicle. An inchoate and unparticularized suspicion, or a “hunch” is not sufficient.

In Kansas v. Glover, a deputy sheriff ran a license plate check on a pickup truck and discovered that the registered owner’s license was revoked. The deputy assumed that the registered owner was driving. He had no other information. Based upon that assumption, he pulled the truck over.

On April 6, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States held that 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traffic stop made after running a vehicle’s license plate and learning that the registered owner’s driver’s license has been revoked is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

The Court did caution that the presence of additional facts may eliminate the reasonable suspicion. For example, if the officer knows that the registered owner is a male in his mid-sixties but observes that the driver is a female in her mid-twenties, then there would not be a reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle.