Does a driver in sole possession of a rental car and with the renter’s permission to operate the car, but not included as a driver on the rental agreement, have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is entitled to constitutional protection?
Terrence Byrd was pulled over by a Pennsylvania police officer for violating a state driving law. Eventually, the officer and another police officer discovered that Byrd was driving a rental car but was not a named driver on the rental agreement. Moreover, the officers also discovered that Byrd had a criminal record that included drug, weapon, and assault charges. Ultimately, the officers asked Byrd for permission to search the car, which they assert that Byrd granted, and, the officers found both heroin and illegal body armor in the car. Byrd challenged the stop and search arguing that it was unlawful. The District Court held that the stop and search was lawful. On appeal, the Third Circuit further recognized that the driver of a rental car who is not listed on the rental agreement did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Supreme Court will likely resolve the Circuit conflict regarding whether a reasonable expectation of privacy exists for a driver in sole possession of a rental vehicle that is not listed as a driver on the rental agreement.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
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?
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a state police officer pulled petitioner Terrence Byrd over for violating a state driving law. United States v. Byrd at 2. The police officer, eventually accompanied by another officer, found that Byrd was driving a rental car but that Byrd’s name was not on the rental agreement. Id. at 3.
- Bryan Koenig, Justices Agree to Hear Nonrenter Car Searches Challenge, Law360 (Sept. 28, 2017).
- Adam Liptak, Pulled Over in a Rental Car, With Heroin in the Trunk, The New York Times (Jan. 1, 2018).