Does the Fourth Amendment apply to the search of a rental car operated by an individual who has the renter’s permission to drive the car but is not himself listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement?
This case considers whether the Fourth Amendment applies to the search of a rental car operated by an individual who has the renter’s permission to drive the car but is not himself listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement. As the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers explain in their amicus brief, the answer is yes. When the Fourth Amendment was adopted, an individual who had been entrusted with goods by another (i.e., a bailee) had a possessory interest in the goods that could be asserted against third parties. That property interest is sufficient to trigger the protections of the Fourth Amendment with regard to the rental vehicle operated by Petitioner with the express consent of his fiancée, the renter. Petitioner also had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the laundry bag that he had locked in the trunk of the rental car. Any restriction on the Fourth Amendment’s scope with regard to rental car drivers would disproportionately impact low-income individuals who have come to depend on rental cars for everyday travel because they cannot afford to purchase their own vehicles. It would also disproportionately harm people of color, who are more likely to rent cars than white drivers, more likely to be pulled over by police while driving, and more likely to be searched by police after being pulled over.