You and a friend are driving across country. Your friend leased the rental car and is its sole authorized driver. In spite of that, your friend said you could take the car to run an errand. That’s when the police stopped you. The officers asked you some questions before searching the car. They found illegal narcotics in the trunk and now you are under arrest.
Is the search legal?
Under the Fourth Amendment, police cannot search an area in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy without probable cause or some other exception to the warrant requirement. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your home and a somewhat lesser expectation in your car, but do you still have that expectation in a rental car? Especially one you didn’t lease? In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court says that you do.
In Byrd v. United States, the defendant had been driving a rental car but was neither listed on the agreement nor an authorized driver. For this reason, police told defendant they did not need his consent to search the car. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed: “As a general rule, someone in otherwise lawful possession and control of a rental car has a reasonable expectation of privacy in it even if the rental agreement does not list him or her as an authorized driver.”
A rental car may still be searched if police have probable cause or some other exception to the warrant requirement such as your consent or that evidence of a crime is in plain view. You do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy if you have stolen the car. Your possession or control must be lawful.
If you have are charged with a crime, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can evaluate whether the stop and search of your car was legal. If not, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence from the stop. Even if police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you can on your own.
If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)