Byrd v. United States [SCOTUSbrief]
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Byrd v. United States [SCOTUSbrief]


The parties in this case are Terrence Byrd
and the United States government. In September of 2014, Byrd’s at-the-time girlfriend
and mother of his children had rented a vehicle from Avis, a rental car company. Byrd had been granted permission from Latasha
Reed and given the car keys to drive the vehicle. Byrd had been driving on a highway when an
officer pulled Byrd over for a traffic violation and asked for his license and the rental car
agreement. In the rental car agreement, Byrd was not
listed as an authorized driver. The officer then asked Byrd if he had any
contraband within the vehicle. Byrd conceded that he did have a marijuana
joint. The officer asked Byrd if he could search
the vehicle. Byrd did not consent to the search, but the
officer proceeded to tell Byrd that he could search the vehicle regardless of his consent
because he was not authorized under the rental agreement. Upon searching the vehicle, the officer discovered
blocks of heroin and body armor within the trunk of the vehicle. As a result of that search, Byrd was indicted
for several crimes. The core issue in this case is whether a driver
has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a rental vehicle when the driver is not listed
under the rental agreement but has permission from someone who is authorized under the rental
agreement. So the Constitution does not explicitly mention
privacy, but privacy is a concept that can be found in a number of rights that the Constitution
gives rise to. The Fourth Amendment states that a person
has a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of their person, houses, papers,
or effects. A vehicle would fall under the effects provision
of the Fourth Amendment. There is a legal distinction between owning
and renting property, but in the context of the Fourth Amendment and privacy, that line
isn’t so clear. The strongest argument that Byrd can make
is that Fourth Amendment protections don’t hinge on contractual rights and don’t hinge
on ownership. There are Supreme Court cases that establish
that an overnight guest of a home has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home. That’s Minnesota v. Olson. It didn’t matter whether or not the overnight
guest owned the home. The court still decided that there was a reasonable
expectation of privacy. In another case, Katz v. United States, the
Supreme Court determined that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in
a phone booth. In that case, the individual didn’t own the
phone both as well. The government is arguing that privacy is
rooted in property rights. And here, because Byrd does not have cognizable
property interests within the rental vehicle, he does not have a privacy right protected
by the Fourth Amendment. He’s not authorized under the rental agreement. He can’t exclude others from driving the vehicle. Even though he has permission from his girlfriend,
she’s a renter. She’s not someone that owns the vehicle. And so, given that the property belongs to
someone else, he can’t claim a protected interest in driving the vehicle. If the Supreme Court decides that there is
no reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle, then contracts may start to play
a greater role in determining whether or not Fourth Amendments interests are protected.

6 Comments

  • True north 30

    The automobile exception applies as well..when the motorist is discovered with drugs the car now gets searched bumper to bumper without need for a warrant or permission from the driver..the real issue should be was the car stop a ruse to search the car?

  • IWantToBeACowboy

    Byrd was not listed as an authorized driver that gives the offices a reason to search the vehicle, THANK GOD THEY SEARCHED! He should go to jail as should his wife and I FIND THIS ADD VERY OFFENSIVE! MOCKING THE DRUG ISSUE IN THE USA TRYING TO PROTECT CRIMINALS WHO HAVE SOLD AND KILLED PEOPLE I KNOW FROM THEIR ACTIONS.

  • TheyMorph

    This was not inclusive as to where and was the mj illegal. If the mj was illegal the search is 1- based on pc and 2- wouldve been subject to a lawful arrest also. The mobility factor has always given such a search more leverage too.
    What we aren't hearing sadly is the officers sixth sense that addl contraband was being concealed. This is real and provable to a large degree.

  • Keith Preston

    I bet that was a fairly short oral argument and will be an even shorter opinion. This is nothing but a search incident to a lawful arrest.

  • Kong Lee

    WAIT, isn't that the same as O, it's not my house it's my mom and dad house. Ok, then the cops don't have to as me then. They can just come in. I don't own the house and their not here , right….

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