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
A minor traffic infraction is not probable cause to justify the search. I agree with Gorsuch.
I agree, Jeff – even as a former DEA Agent…
Your reasoning actually doesn’t apply to the case. While I agree that a minor traffic offense doesn’t justify a search, that is not the question at issue. The question is if justification is needed at all when the driver is technically not supposed to be driving the car at all.
So did the police officer read the rental contract to see if an authorized driver is in control of the vehicle? Even if they did, do we want a policeman’s on-the-street interpretation/misinterpretation of a contract to dictate whether or not they can spread-eagle you on the street and rifle through your trunk without demonstrating probable cause?
What if they don’t search the vehicle, and the car is found later abandoned with the body of the fiancee’ in the trunk. Legally he was not on the lease paperwork as an authorized driver. The police only have his word that she gave him permission to drive the vehicle. I believe Byrd is correct, the 4th Amendment protects everyone!
When the government is looking into every walk of our lives from school to the bedrooms why not allow a vehicle search..why would they be exempt? Further the search turned up some illegal articles and both people should be charged accordingly. Why do we coddle criminals anyway. If it was you or me Jeff we’d be in jail right now.
By the logic of your comment, particularly the sentence about what was found, we should IGNORE the 4th amendment, and allow warrantless searches at any time.
And by your logic, any body should be allowed to do absolutely any criminal conduct they please and claim 4th, 5th, 1st, and 19th amendments so they are free to continue that lifestyle. When they come up against a person that claims the 2nd amendment, they will be toast.
A bullet proof vest is not an illegal article.
heroin IS! PROBABLE CAUSE IS CONFIRMED WITH BULLETPROOF VEST THAT HE IS A DEALER!!
Yeah, Kathy, if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t mind having the police stop you any time, demand to inspect your purse, trunk or luggage, maybe a cavity search too, eh? Oh, don’t forget to keep your papers in order, and if you have “no business” to leave your city, you shouldn’t venture out…..you might be trafficking in drugs, because drug dealers travel all around. Sound crazy? Try getting stopped by the police on an interstate highway. When they ask if you are carrying a large amount of money, say “why yes, I am”. That money will likely become theirs, the rationale being that drug dealers frequently carry large amounts of cash, so you might be a drug dealer. Sound crazy? Something that couldn’t happen in the Unites States? Well it is happening. Point is, don’t give the government any more power than it needs to fulfill the role you want it to have.
Mike: Judge Gorsuch, in my opinion, is correct relative to the search. The search does not allow a criminal
prosecution fort possession of Heroin and bulletproof vests. However, I believe the importance of the information and materials found deserves complete investigation. If these materials belonged to Terrance
Boyd or Natasha Reed, as potentially established by DNA testing of materials or fingerprint info, either or both
should be identified in police and Drug enforcement databases as having been in possession of illegal drugs
and potentially dangerous vests. The vests indicate the potential for violence using firearms.
The future behavior of these two indicates a high probability of violent crime if they actually possessed
the contraband. Might just have rented the wrong car.
The current heroin abuse crisis is incredibly severe and dangerous! I am very pleased that Judge Gorsuch
is on the side of the law in terms of capturing drug abusers, especially heroine abuse. I sincerely hope
that Judge Gorsuch will be supported by his colleagues on the Supreme Court.
DId they do the search because they suspected drugs? I don’t think that is the issue here.
I have signed contracts when renting automobiles, that does not allow me to let another driver drive the rental car. The circumstances under which Mr. Byrd was not the individual who signed the rental agreement may be construed as probable cause for further investigation.
I like this argument. What if Byrd had stolen the car? Could Reed be dead in the trunk? Or a bomb?
It’s a tough call for sure, but I would say that there is a good chance that because he was alone in a vehicle and driving it, he actually could be considered to have stolen it. THAT would in fact allow for a search without a warrant. Car rental companies would probably consider the car to have been stolen under these circumstances, in which case the police had the right to search it.
They should of at least of effort of using a drug dog
Thank God for justice gorsuch