Supreme Court Sides With Police in Traffic Stops

Justices say police acted lawfully in pulling over car because of suspended license
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 6, 2020 11:30 AM CDT
Supreme Court Backs Police in Traffic Stop Case

Police can pull over a car when they know only that its owner's license is invalid, even if they don't know who's behind the wheel, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The court said in an 8-1 decision that unless there's reason to believe otherwise, it's logical for an officer to think the car's owner will be driving, per the AP. “Empirical studies demonstrate what common experience readily reveals: Drivers with revoked licenses frequently continue to drive and therefore to pose safety risks to other motorists and pedestrians," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court.

The high court reversed a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found police violated a driver’s constitutional rights when they stopped his pickup based only on information that the truck owner’s license had been revoked. In a separate, concurring opinion, justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized that the decision should be interpreted narrowly, per the Hill. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented. "The consequence of the majority’s approach is to absolve officers from any responsibility to investigate the identity of a driver where feasible," she wrote. "But that is precisely what officers ought to do—and are more than capable of doing."

(More US Supreme Court stories.)

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