A Major 4th Amendment Fight Is Brewing
Article by For Liberty Staff.
The Bryd case before the court shows a crack in the conservative bloc, as the new Justice Gorsuch and Justice Alito exchanged conflicting views on property rights. In Bryd v. the United States, a woman named Natasha Reed rented a car and allowed her fiancé, Terrence Bryd, to drive in violation of her rental contract. State police pulled Bryd over for a minor traffic infraction, searched the trunk where they found heroin and bulletproof vests. Bryd is arguing the evidence must be excluded from the fruits of an illegal search.
The question before the Supreme Court is: “The Fourth Amendment protects people from suspicionless searches of places and effects in which they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Does a driver in sole possession of a rental vehicle reasonably expect privacy in the vehicle where he has the renter’s permission to drive the vehicle but is not listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement?”
Gorsuch indicates that his possession of the vehicle, in a common law sense, creates the reasonable expectation of privacy, as an authorized user by his fiancé; Alito argues that such a scenario was not demonstrated under common law, and it is an invalid comparison. Alito argued further that the Fourth Amendment, the applicable law, used the term effects, not property; he implies the two cannot be conflated in an originalist interpretation of the Constitution. The simple question being whether the cops were right to search the car or not based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the search of Mr. Bryd’s vehicle.
Reason Magazine has previously highlighted such disagreements between the justices along these lines. If Gorsuch prevails in his interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, it could substantially limit the government’s power to search property for light and specious reasons. It would seem that Gorsuch has pro-liberty leanings on a court that has sided more so with the government in recent years.
Image Credit: Joe Ravi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons