January 9, 2018
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Reed rented a car in New Jersey while petitioner Terrence
Byrd waited outside the rental facility. Her signed agreement
warned that permitting an unauthorized driver to drive the
car would violate the agreement. Reed listed no additional
drivers on the form, but she gave the keys to Byrd upon
leaving the building. He stored personal belongings in the
rental car's trunk and then left alone for Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. 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 also stated
he had a marijuana cigarette in the car. The troopers
proceeded to search the car, discovering body armor and 49
bricks of heroin in the trunk. The evidence was turned over
to federal authorities, who charged Byrd with federal drug
and other crimes. The District Court denied Byrd's motion
to suppress the evidence as the fruit of an unlawful search,
and the Third Circuit affirmed. Both courts concluded that,
because Byrd was not listed on the rental agreement, he
lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car.
1. 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 or her otherwise reasonable expectation
of privacy. Pp. 6-13.
(a) Reference to property concepts is instructive in
"determining the presence or absence of the privacy
interests protected by [the Fourth] Amendment."
Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 144, n. 12. Pp.
(b) While a person need not always have a recognized
common-law property interest in the place searched to be able
to claim a reasonable expectation of privacy in it, see,
e.g., Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 259,
legitimate presence on the premises, standing alone, is
insufficient because it "creates too broad a gauge for
measurement of Fourth Amendment rights, "
Rakas, 439 U.S., at 142. The Court has not set forth
a single metric or exhaustive list of relevant
considerations, but "[legitimation of expectations of
privacy must have a source outside of the Fourth Amendment,
either by reference to concepts of real or personal property
law or to understandings that are recognized and permitted by
society." Id., at 144, n. 12. These concepts
may be linked. "One of the main rights attaching to
property is the right to exclude others, " and "one
who owns or lawfully possesses or controls property will in
all likelihood have a legitimate expectation of privacy by
virtue of the right to exclude." Ibid. This
general property-based concept guides resolution of the
instant case. Pp. 8-9.
(c) The Government's contention that drivers who are not
listed on rental agreements always lack an expectation of
privacy in the car rests on too restrictive a view of the
Fourth Amendment's protections. But Byrd's proposal
that a rental car's sole occupant always has an
expectation of privacy based on mere possession and control
would, without qualification, include thieves or others who
have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Pp. 9-13.
(1) The Government bases its claim that an unauthorized
driver has no privacy interest in the vehicle on a misreading
of Rakas. There, the Court disclaimed any intent to
hold that passengers cannot have an expectation of privacy in
automobiles, but found that the passengers there had not
claimed "any legitimate expectation of privacy in the
areas of the car which were searched." 439 U.S., at 150,
n. 17. Byrd, in contrast, was the rental car's driver and
sole occupant. His situation is similar to the defendant in
Jones, who had a reasonable expectation of privacy
in his friend's apartment because he "had complete
dominion and control over the apartment and could exclude
others from it." Rakas, supra, at 149. The
expectation of privacy that comes from lawful possession and
control and the attendant right to exclude should not differ
depending on whether a car is rented or owned by someone
other than the person currently possessing it, much as it did
not seem to matter whether the defendant's friend in
Jones owned or leased the apartment he permitted the
defendant to use in his absence. Pp. 9-11.
(2) The Government also contends that Byrd had no basis for
claiming an expectation of privacy in the rental car because
his driving of that car was so serious a breach of Reed's
rental agreement that the rental company would have
considered the agreement "void" once he took the
wheel. But the contract says only that the violation may
result in coverage, not the agreement, being void and the
renter's being fully responsible for any loss or damage,
and the Government fails to explain what bearing this breach
of contract, standing alone, has on expectations of privacy
in the car. Pp. 11-12.
(3) Central, though, to reasonable expectations of privacy in
these circumstances is the concept of lawful possession, for
a " 'wrongful' presence at the scene of a search
would not enable a defendant to object to the legality of the
search, " Rakas, supra, at 141, n. 9. Thus, a
car thief would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy
in a stolen car no matter the degree of possession and
control. The Court leaves for remand the Government's
argument that one who intentionally uses a third party to
procure a rental car by a fraudulent scheme for the purpose
of committing a crime is no better situated than a car thief.
2. Also left for remand is the Government's argument
that, even if Byrd had a right to object to the search,
probable cause justified it in any event. The Third Circuit
did not reach this question because it concluded, as an
initial matter, that Byrd lacked a reasonable expectation of
privacy in the rental car. That court has discretion as to
the order in which the remanded questions are best addressed.
Pp. 13- 14.
679 Fed.Appx. 146, vacated and remanded.
KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which GORSUCH, J.,
joined. ALITO, J., filed a concurring opinion.
September 2014, Pennsylvania State Troopers pulled over a car
driven by petitioner Terrence Byrd. Byrd was the only person
in the car. In the course of the traffic stop the troopers
learned that the car was rented and that Byrd was not listed
on the rental agreement as an authorized driver. For this
reason, the troopers told Byrd they did not need his consent
to search the car, including its trunk where he had stored
personal effects. A search of the trunk uncovered body armor
and 49 bricks of heroin.
evidence was turned over to federal authorities, who charged
Byrd with distribution and possession of heroin with the
intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§841(a)(1) and possession of body armor by a prohibited
person in violation of 18 U.S.C. §931(a)(1). Byrd moved
to suppress the evidence as the fruit of an unlawful search.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of
Pennsylvania denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals for
the Third Circuit affirmed. Both courts concluded that,
because Byrd was not listed on the rental agreement, he
lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car. Based
on this conclusion, it appears that both the District Court
and Court of Appeals deemed it unnecessary to consider
whether the troopers had probable cause to search the car.
Court granted certiorari to address the question whether a
driver has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a rental
car when he or she is not listed as an authorized driver on
the rental agreement. The Court now holds that, 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
Court concludes a remand is necessary to address in the first
instance the Government's argument that this general rule
is inapplicable because, in the circumstances here, Byrd had
no greater expectation of privacy than a car thief. If that
is so, our cases make clear he would lack a legitimate
expectation of privacy. It is necessary to remand as well to
determine whether, even if Byrd had a right to object to the
search, probable cause justified it in any event.
September 17, 2014, petitioner Terrence Byrd and Latasha Reed
drove in Byrd's Honda Accord to a Budget car-rental
facility in Wayne, New Jersey. Byrd stayed in the parking lot
in the Honda while Reed went to the Budget desk and rented a
Ford Fusion. The agreement Reed signed required her to
certify that she had a valid driver's license and had not
committed certain vehicle -related offenses within the
previous three years. An addendum to the agreement, which
Reed initialed, provides the following restriction on who may
drive the rental car:
"I understand that the only ones permitted to drive the
vehicle other than the renter are the renter's spouse,
the renter's co-employee (with the renter's
permission, while on company business), or a person who
appears at the time of the rental and signs an Additional
Driver Form. These ...