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I'm not seeking legal advice, but rather I'm seeking others thoughts and reasoning on a case that has been disposed of already, which seems to be a violation of constitutional rights afforded to individuals against police performing illegal search and seizures, without probable cause, permission of the driver or "owner" of the vehicle or even a search warrant.

A friend of a friend was recently pulled over while driving a rental car that was rented in my friend's name. The driver (aka - friend of a friend) was not listed on the rental car contract as a person allowed to drive the rental vehicle.

He was stopped by police and the vehicle was searched inside and out, with the officers telling the driver he was not even allowed to legally drive the vehicle, and since he was in a car rented under someone else’s name, and without him listed as a driver on the contract, they didn't need his permission, didn't need probable cause and didn't even need a search warrant to tear the car apart under the suspicion he was transporting a controlled substance.

It came out in the court case that followed, that the driver basically "appeared suspicious" to the officer, and this was the entire reason behind the search of the vehicle with no probable cause or search warrant and no permission to search the rental.

Should the driver have the same rights in a rental car that he's not a listed driver on the rental contract, as he would if he was in his own vehicle; which should protect him against illegal search and seizures by police with no probable cause, as police stated in their own words at his trial?

To be clear, this wasn't a stop and frisk, this was a complete search of the entire vehicle

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    Out of curiosity, was he transporting a controlled substance? It doesn't seem it would end up in court otherwise. – JAB Mar 13 '18 at 15:16
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    it was a felony firearm charge; don’t recall specific charges. It was a felony firearm charge on top of a few traffic citations and a resisting arrest when he refused to let them search the vehicle, the officers then pulled him out of the rental to detain (handcuff him in the back of a patrol car, during the search of the vehicle), and he was fighting the officers as they handcuffed him – user15669 Mar 13 '18 at 15:30
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In general, people have less expectation of privacy in cars than in their homes. To challenge a search and/or seizure under the Fourth Amendment, a person must have standing - the right to sue (that is, you must have had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place where the search happened; if you didn't, no standing - can't claim your privacy was violated if you had no privacy).

The US Circuit Courts are split on the issue of unauthorized rental drivers and whether they have the same reasonable expectation of privacy as the authorized driver of a rental car would have. Some Circuits allow the unauthorized driver to challenge a car search if the authorized driver gave them permission. Some Circuits look only at the agreement and if the driver isn't authorized on that, they're out of luck. The 6th Circuit is more case-by-case, with a presumption that driver can't challenge the search that can be overcome based on the facts. (All this info from US v. Haywood, 324 F.3d 514)

There's a current case before the Supreme Court (argued January 9, 2018), Byrd v. US, on this very issue. This SCOTUSblog page has a lot of information on the case.

Edited to add: Texas is in the Fifth Circuit, which follows the rule that unauthorized drivers don't have standing to challenge a search/seizure even with the authorized driver's permission to drive the car; unauthorized drivers of rental cars don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy because they lack a possessory interest in the car and/or they're violating the rental agreement. Basically, even though it seems the cops' stop of the car would've violated the Fourth Amendment if he were the authorized driver, since this happened in Texas, he's not going to be able to challenge the stop. IMO, this is incredibly unjust especially when the cops admitted there was no probable cause, so hopefully the Supreme Court makes this rule obsolete and allows unauthorized drivers to exercise their Fourth Amendment rights.

Some law review articles on the topic of unauthorized rental drivers:

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Mar 14 '18 at 12:19
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Generally speaking, no a driver ILLEGALLY driving a rental car should not expect the same rights and privacy as somebody driving their own vehicle. It's not just some oops.. I broke a contract with a car rental company, it's actually a crime in many states. It's technically driving a stolen vehicle.

There's a big difference in the amount of privacy you have a reasonable right to expect when driving a stolen vehicle and driving your own.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Mar 14 '18 at 12:22

protected by feetwet Mar 14 '18 at 12:19

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