Two Fourth Amendment Cases

Two Fourth Amendment cases in the Supreme Court today:

1. Byrd v. United States:

Byrd was driving a rental car that was stopped and searched without a warrant. Byrd is arguing that drivers of rental vehicles have a reasonable expectation of privacy even if they are not authorized drivers on the rental agreement but have the renter’s permission to drive it. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said that because Byrd was not on the rental agreement, he had no property interest in the car, no reasonable expectation of privacy in the locked trunk—which contained body armor and 49 bricks of heroin—and no Fourth Amendment protection from a suspicionless search. The case has significant implications beyond the technical “rental agreement” surface; as one  amicus brief points out, “the connected car is a computer on wheels.” And if you look under the hood, “you will see that the warrantless search of a modern vehicle implicates far more privacy interests than the physical search of a ’66 Buick LeSabre.” What’s needed is a clear Fourth Amendment rule to limit police access to personal data stored in the vehicle.

2. Collins v. Virginia

Ryan Collins had a covered motorcycle in the driveway of his home that the police searched without a warrant.  The Virginia Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment’s vehicle exception applied: no warrant needed when police have probable cause to believe a vehicle was engaged in illegality. Groups supporting Collins warn that the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision threatens the Fourth Amendment’s foundational protection of the privacy of the home. If that decision is endorsed, they say, the warrantless invasion of a home will be excused as long as the purpose of the invasion was to search an automobile parked on the property.

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