Supreme Court rules that rental car drivers have privacy rights

Many Minnesotans rent cars each year, and some people allow others who are not on the rental agreements to drive them. On May 14, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that people who are not on the rental agreements for the cars that they have borrowed still have privacy rights against warrantless searches of the vehicles.

In the case, a man was pulled over while he was driving a rental car that his fiancee had rented. He was not on the rental agreement, however. The police reportedly noticed that he appeared to be nervous, and he allegedly told them he had a marijuana cigarette. The police then searched the whole vehicle, including the trunk. They told the man that they didn’t need a warrant since he was not the authorized driver of the car.

Police found 2,500 baggies of heroin and body armor in the trunk. The man then told the officers that he planned to sell the heroin for $7,000. He was later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers cannot conduct warrantless searches of rental cars unless they have probable cause to believe that they contain evidence of a crime.

Criminal convictions can have long-term consequences on the lives of defendants. They may face years in prison, substantial fines and other penalties. After they have completed their sentences, people may still face ongoing collateral consequences because of their convictions. People who have been charged with crimes might benefit by getting help from experienced criminal defense attorneys. If the police conducted the investigations in an unconstitutional manner, the attorneys may challenge the admissibility of the evidence and potentially win dismissal of the charges.

Source: WTOP, “Supreme Court greenlights driver rights in rental car case“, May 14, 2018