Some people in South Carolina allow their friends or family members to drive rental cars for which they are not the authorized drivers. When unauthorized drivers are stopped by the police, the police might search the cars. The Supreme Court issued a ruling on May 14 that law enforcement officers cannot search rental vehicles that are being driven by unauthorized drivers without having a warrant or probable cause to believe that the cars contain evidence of crimes.
The case that was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States involved a man who was stopped while he was driving a car that had been rented by his fiancee. Police officers searched the vehicle, including the trunk, without a warrant after they claimed that he acted nervously and said that he had a marijuana cigarette. They found body armor and a large quantity of heroin in the trunk, and the man was later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Supreme Court ruled that unauthorized drivers of rental cars who have permission to drive them from the authorized drivers have rights against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment. The government had argued that unauthorized drivers do not have those protections.
People who are facing allegations that they have committed criminal offenses may want to retain criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. The attorneys may understand the rights that their clients have and the types of defenses that they might be able to raise against the charges. The attorneys may review the police reports and the evidence against their clients to help them to build strong defense cases. They may be able to secure favorable pleas for their clients by negotiating with the prosecutors. In some cases, they may win dismissal of the charges.