Registered owner of the vehicle is revoked. Can police pull me over?
There is a case pending in the United States Supreme Court that will have a huge impact on drivers throughout the country. Kansas v. Glover will address whether police can pull over a car solely because the registered owner of the car has a revoked license. This could be a huge victory for 4th amendment supporters. Or it could be a huge victory for law enforcement.
This case comes from Kansas. Back in April of 2016, a deputy performed a routine check of a vehicle’s license plate. This action is fairly typical. Nothing prevents law enforcement from running routine license plate checks. In this case, the officer discovered that the registered owner of the truck had a revoked license. The officer could not see who was driving. And there was no other reason to pull the car over (such as a broken tail light or speeding). Nevertheless, the officer pulled the car over. During the stop, the officer determined that the registered owner was the person driving the truck. The officer arrested the driver.
Glover filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the stop violated the 4th amendment. The Kansas Supreme Court ultimately sided with Glover. The rationale behind siding with Glover was that the officer had no information to support the assumption that the owner of the car was in fact the driver.
Kansas appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The court held oral arguments last week. We expect a decision in 2020.
4th Amendment Impact in Wisconsin
As mentioned above, officers are free to run license plate checks. If the result is that the registered owner is suspended or revoked, an officer is permitted to stop the vehicle. However, an appellate case from 2007 (State v. Newer) said that if the officer learns additional information, such as he observes the driver to be much older, younger, or a different gender than the registered owner, then reasonable suspicion would dissipate.
The Newer case was thrown upside down in 2018 with State v. Smith. Here, the Wisconsin Supreme Court permitted an officer to continue a traffic stop even after he determined that the revoked owner was not driving the vehicle. In Smith, just like Glover, the officer ran a car’s license plate and determined the registered owner was a woman with a suspended license. He pulled the car over. However, prior to getting to the car, he determined that the driver was a man. Even though the reasonable suspicion dissipated, the Court held that he could continue the stop to check the ID of the driver. As luck would have it, Smith was drunk and ultimately arrested for OWI.
If the Supreme Court affirms the Kansas Supreme Court, then cases like Smith would be overturned. Officers would no longer be able to pull a car over simply because the registered owner was revoked. The officer would have to continue the investigation without stopping the car. In theory, the officer could pull up a photo ID of the revoked owner and look in the car to see if the description is similar. Or, the officer could see if there is any other reason for pulling the car over.
Operating While Suspended – Wisconsin
Wisconsin prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle when their license is suspended. Wis. Stat. Sec. 343.44(1)(a) explains that no person can operate a motor vehicle on a highway during the period of suspension. It further states that if you have an occupational license, you cannot operate a vehicle in violation of the occupational license restrictions. It does not matter whether you have knowledge that your operating privilege is suspended.
If convicted of operating while suspended, you face a minimum fine of $50 and a maximum of $200. This is a non-criminal offense. However, if you are aware you are suspended and you get in an accident which results in injury or death, you could face a Class H felony.
Operating While Revoked – Wisconsin
Wisconsin prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle when their license is revoked. Found in Wis. Stat. Sec. 343.44(1)(b), it states that no person can operate a motor vehicle on a highway during the period of revocation. It further states that if you have an occupational license, you cannot operate a vehicle in violation of the occupational license restrictions. What if you’re not aware of your operating privilege revocation? Ignorance of the law is not a defense. Unfortunately, that ignorance doesn’t get you out of trouble.
If convicted of operating while revoked, you face up to a $2,500 fine and 1 year in jail. Fines increase if you have multiple operating while revoked offenses on your record. And if you are involved in an accident which results in injury or death to a person and you are operating while revoked, you could face a Class H felony.
4th Amendment Still Has Meaning
While it might not seem so, the 4th amendment still has meaning. This is one of the most litigated amendments in our Constitution. As a criminal defense lawyer, it is our duty to be well versed in 4th amendment law and how it evolves over time. Kansas v. Glover will have a huge impact on how the 4th amendment is treated going forward. And as everyday citizens, the more the 4th amendment is eroded, the more likely you are to be stopped and questioned for no reason at all.
At Meyer Van Severen, we will vigorously defend your 4th amendment rights. If the police violated your rights, we will file motions to exclude the evidence. Our attorneys have extensive experience litigating these matters. If you have been stopped by the police and are facing charges, call us immediately at (414) 270-0202. One of our award winning criminal defense attorneys will be happy to take your case today!