Byrd v. United States

Justia Summary

Reed rented a car in New Jersey while Byrd waited outside. Reed’s signed agreement warned that permitting an unauthorized driver to drive the car would violate the agreement. Reed listed no additional drivers but gave the keys to Byrd. He stored personal belongings in the trunk and then left alone for Pittsburgh. After stopping Byrd for a traffic infraction, Pennsylvania State Troopers learned that the car was rented, that Byrd was not listed as an authorized driver, and that Byrd had prior drug and weapons convictions. Byrd stated he had a marijuana cigarette in the car. The troopers searched the car, discovering body armor and 49 bricks of heroin in the trunk. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Byrd’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Court vacated. The mere fact that a driver in lawful possession or control of a rental car is not listed on the rental agreement will not defeat his otherwise reasonable expectation of privacy. Expectations of privacy must have a source outside of the Fourth Amendment, either by reference to concepts of property law or to understandings that are permitted by society. One who owns or lawfully possesses or controls property will likely have a legitimate expectation of privacy by virtue of the right to exclude others. That expectation of privacy should not differ if a car is rented or owned by another. Breach of the rental contract, alone, has no impact on expectations of privacy. A thief would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a stolen car and, on remand, the court must consider whether one who intentionally uses a third party to procure a car by a fraudulent scheme in order to commit a crime is like a car thief and whether probable cause justified the search in any event.