Kansas Peace Officers Association

"Co-operation and Justice"

Kansas v. Glover; No. 18-556

04/06/2020 4:49 PM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

The United States Supreme Court has today reversed the Kansas Supreme Court in the traffic stop case of Kansas v. Glover.  The vote was 8-1 with Justice Sotomayor in dissent. 

The case facts were straightforward.  The route to the final resolution was less so. 

In 2016, a Douglas County deputy ran the tag on a truck the deputy was following.  It came back registered to Charles Glover Jr.  The deputy also learned that Glover’s driver’s license was revoked.  Having no information to the contrary, the deputy inferred that the registered owner was the driver.  The deputy stopped the truck.  Charles Glover Jr. was driving the truck.

The State charged Glover.  Glover filed a motion to suppress arguing that the information possessed by the deputy did not rise to the “reasonable suspicion” necessary for the stop.  The district court agreed and suppressed.  The State appealed, and the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed.  Glover appealed, and the Kansas Supreme Court reversed.  The State sought review by the United States Supreme Court, and three years after the stop, the State has prevailed.

The Big Court (so aptly-named by Director Larry Welch, KBI retired) initially responded by reaffirming comments from its past holdings: 1) reasonable suspicion is a less demanding standard that can be established with information that is different in quantity or content than that required to establish probable cause; 2) such a standard depends on the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men [and women], not legal technicians, act; 3) courts cannot reasonably demand scientific certainty . . . where none exists; rather, they must permit officers to make commonsense judgments and inferences about human behavior; and, that such judgments and inferences need not rule out the possibility of innocent conduct.

“Before initiating the stop, Deputy Mehrer observed an individual operating a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck with Kansas plate 295ATJ.  He also knew that the registered owner of the truck had a revoked license and that the model of the truck matched the observed vehicle.  From these facts, Deputy Mehrer drew the commonsense inference that Glover was likely the driver of the vehicle, which provided more than reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop.”  [emphasis added].

The Big Court went on to remind the lower courts that officers may use commonsense, analyze probabilities, and may take into account knowledge gained in their personal lives.  In other words, reasonable suspicion analysis is not limited to an individual officer’s police training and experience. 

That said, the Court warned that its decision is narrow in scope.  “ . . .{t]he presence of additional facts might dispel reasonable suspicion.  For example, if an officer knows that the registered owner of the vehicle is in his mid-sixties but observes that the driver is in her mid-twenties, then the totality of the circumstances would not” amount to reasonable suspicion to stop the car. 

This is a very valuable decision in our quest to better understand what sets of facts and circumstances rise to reasonable suspicion.  And, it is a case that hopefully moves Kansas back toward the original standards of reasonable suspicion in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).    

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