The Supreme Court has handed down a case that analyzed reasonable suspicion and traffic stops. In Kansas v. Glover, an officer saw a vehicle driving, ran its license plate number, and the information came back that the owner of the vehicle had a suspended driver’s license. The officer did not know who was driving or see the driver, but based on the inference that the owner of the vehicle was likely driving the vehicle, the officer made the traffic stop on reasonable suspicion of the crime of “driving under suspension.”
Facts that the officer knew:
Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the court which upheld the officer and held that he did have reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop.
First, Justice Thomas describes reasonable suspicion and that it is a lower standard than probable cause:
Justice Thomas then applies the facts known the officer to the reasonable suspicion standard, and holds that based on the totality and common sense, the officer had r.s. to make the traffic stop.
Justice Thomas also disagrees with the dissent about what type of common sense or experience an officer must rely on. Thomas makes clear that an officer can use all of his experience or common sense and not just his training and law enforcement experience:
So in conclusion, Justice Thomas holds, “Under the totality of the circumstances of this case, Deputy Mehrer drew an entirely reasonable inference that Glover was driving while his license was revoked.”
Justice Kagan concurred with the majority, but she pointed out that there was a crucial fact that needed to be mentioned. Under Kansas law, the state almost never revokes a license unless it is a repeat or serious offense:
Justice Sotomayor dissented on grounds that the inference drawn by the officer has shifted the burden of proof:
Two big takeaways from this case. First, like all probable cause/reasonable suspicion cases, every case is different and fact specific. This means that litigants often use previous cases as example to compare and contrast their set of facts. This gives litigants a set of facts that has not been seen before in a reasonable suspicion analysis.
Second, the majority held that when an officer is using their common sense in a reasonable suspicion analysis, that common sense does not have to be derived from law enforcement experience or training. Rather, it is their general common sense.
Last year, I wrote a blog piece for the Washburn Law Journal that described the analysis by Justice Sotomayor. I created this diagram to visualize how I thought the Justices would analyze the case. It seems that the majority and concurrence thought this did not shift the burden, and the dissent thought that it did: