Do Rental Drivers Have a Reasonable Privacy Right?

Boundaries of Federal Circuit Courts

United States police must comply with the Fourth Amendment before they search any car. The preamble thereto confirms “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

The Post Register has been investigating to what extent this applies to a rental car driver. This boils down to the extent to which they ‘own it’ at the time of the police intervention. The relevance behind this is any evidence the police find during a search of a car, is also suppressed if they violated the Fourth Amendment in the process.


The Test for a Violation during a Police Car Search


The Post Register says, “Courts look first to see if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place that was searched. If a court determines you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car that is being searched, you cannot challenge the search.” Various courts have taken different approaches to determine the expectation in the case of rental cars

# An Idaho court recently decided an authorized driver on the rental agreement has an expectation of privacy, but not another person driving the car. Federal courts in the Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits have agreed.

# However, the Eighth and Ninth Circuits believe if the authorized driver gave a person permission, then that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and may challenge the search.

# Moreover, the Sixth Circuit has resolved the person receiving permission must also be related to the authorized driver, and have a valid driver’s license.


The Post Register Concludes as Follows


“In short, if you are an authorized driver of a rental car then you will always have the ability to challenge a search of that car. If you are planning on driving a rental car and you are not an authorized driver you may not have the ability to challenge a search of that rental car.”

We recommend rental car clients acquaint themselves of the rules applying to the state where they hire, and are mindful how their rights may change when crossing a state line.

Pteet provides this information in the public interest of people driving rental and other vehicles in the United States. We hope the news added value. If so, please ask us for a price for your affordable car rental damage insurance next time you hire a car.

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Boundaries of Federal Circuit Courts: Image United States Courts

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