US Supreme Court Case Could Cripple Photo Enforcement

Nearly every red light camera and speed camera program in the country relies on the presumption that the owner of the car was the driver at the time of the alleged offense. On Monday, the US Supreme Court agreed to put that assumption to the test in a case involving a conventional traffic stop that took place in Kansas three years ago.

The facts of the case are straightforward. Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Mehrer ran the plate on a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck on April 28, 2016. Although the truck was driving in full compliance with the law, the deputy’s computer noted that the truck’s owner, Charles Glover Jr, had his license revoked. The officer simply assumed Glover would be behind the wheel as he conducted a traffic stop.

The Kansas Supreme Court last year said the stop, and the presumption that the owner is the drier, violated the Fourth Amendment (view ruling). Should the US Supreme Court agree with Kansas, the precedent would overturn the view of twelve state supreme courts and four federal appellate courts. State prosecutors want the Kansas ruling overturned, arguing that it would impose too great a burden on police to require identification of the driver before conducting a stop. They pointed out the federal court with jurisdiction over Kansas accepted the owner-driver presumption.