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Supreme Court to review traffic stops

Motorists have a right of privacy while they are in their vehicles. But, stopping motorists often leads to the filing of criminal charges, such as drunk driving, drug charges or theft. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an illegal search and seizure case involving a traffic stop in Kansas.

The Court is reviewing an appeal of a Kansas state Supreme Court ruling that a truck driver was unlawfully stopped for suspicion of driving with a revoked license because the traffic stop was an impermissible search under the constitution. It will decide whether it is reasonable, under the Fourth Amendment, for the police to stop a vehicle only because a police officer assumes that its registered owner is driving the vehicle and the police have no other information disputing this assumption.

Kansas police pulled over the truck after it ran its registration and learned that the driver's license was revoked. The driver argued that the police did not see a traffic violation or have other information to assume that he violated the law.

Kansas, along with 11 other states, are seeking reversal of the state court ruling. The Kansas Attorney General claimed that numerous federal and state courts ruled in the past that it is reasonable for the police to suspect that the registered vehicle owner is its driver. The states argued that the Kansas ruling makes it more difficult for police to prevent unsafe motorists from driving and that unlicensed drivers constitute only 2.6 percent of all motorists yet they are responsible for 18.2 percent of all deadly traffic accidents.

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