United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge
9, 2016 at 3:20 a.m., Ohio State Highway Patrol Troopers
Brown and Jesse pulled over a vehicle driven by Defendant
Kaylor Brown for potential traffic violations. The car was
also occupied by a passenger, Ruby Freeman. After the
officers asked a series of questions and about fifteen
minutes had passed, a K-9 drug unit detected and consequently
revealed a large amount of cocaine in the vehicle. Brown
moves to suppress the evidence on several constitutional
grounds. But because Brown lacked standing in the vehicle,
the Court will deny his motion to suppress.
a general rule, an unauthorized driver of a rental vehicle
does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the
vehicle, and therefore does not have standing to contest the
legality of a search of the vehicle." United States
v. Smith, 263 F.3d 571, 586 (6th Cir. 2001). The general
rule, however, is not a "bright line" or
"rigid" test. Id. Courts "must
determine whether" an unauthorized driver "had a
legitimate expectation of privacy which was reasonable in
light of all the surrounding circumstances."
Id. Factors courts may consider include:
1) whether the defendant was a properly licensed driver, who
could legally drive the car in question;
2) whether the defendant was able to present the officer with
a rental agreement and provide the officer with sufficient
information regarding the car;
3) whether the defendant driver can identify some related
individual who gave him possession of the vehicle or whether
the purported authorized driver is an "unrelated third
4) whether the defendant's related party had given him
permission to drive the vehicle; and
5) "most significantly, " whether the defendant had
a business relationship with the rental company such as
having made a reservation, or presented it with a credit card
United States v. Hermiz, 42 F.Supp.3d 856, 864 (E.D.
Mich. 2014) (citing Smith, 263 F.3d at 586). The
burden of persuasion rests with the defendant.
Smith, 263 F.3d at 582 (citing United
State v. Salvucci, 448 U.S. 83, 86 (1980)).
Brown was not authorized as a driver of the car, which was
owned by a rental company. (3:21:09-12). The Court must
accordingly conduct the Smith analysis. As to the
first factor, both Brown and Freeman presented their
driver's license. (3:20:18-19, 3:21:44-45). Defendant,
however, fails to carry his burden of persuasion for the
other four factors. Neither the defendant nor Freeman could
present a rental agreement because it was not in the car.
(3:21:25- 33). Furthermore, Brown said only that the car was
a rental, that his own was in the shop, and that the rental
was in Freeman's name. No other details were provided,
like the name of the rental company, the duration of the
rental, or why Freeman rented a car for Brown when his car
was in the shop. The officers could not, therefore, verify
whether Freeman was actually the authorized driver of the
vehicle who was able to give Brown possession of the car, and
permission to drive it. Further, Brown has not to date
presented a rental agreement to the Court.
in Smith, the court emphasized that the authorized
driver was the wife of the unauthorized-driver defendant.
See United States v. Holloway, No. 05-80659, 2006 WL
2946788, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 16, 2006) (noting the Sixth
Circuit "placed special emphasis on the defendant's
'intimate relationship' with his wife"). Here,
although Brown may be able to provide some information about
his girlfriend, Freeman, she is still an "unrelated
third party." Smith, 263 F.3d at 586. And the
relationship between a man and his girlfriend is likely not
as "intimate" as that between husband and wife. For
example, Freeman was unable to recount basic details about
Brown's cousin with whom they had allegedly spent the
evening in Toledo. ECF 147-4, PgID 825.
Freeman and Brown had an "intimate relationship"
similar to that of a husband and wife, and Freeman gave Brown
permission to drive the car-as Brown represented
(3:21:09-10)- the fifth and "most significant"
factor is lacking. There is no evidence that Brown had a
business relationship with the rental company. The record is
bereft of facts indicating that Brown's situation is
"truly unique, " like that of the defendant in
Smith. Defendant fails to carry his burden to
persuade that his situation was truly unique and thus falls
outside the exception outlined in Smith. The general
rule that unauthorized drivers lack standing to challenge the
search of the vehicle applies to Brown.
it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant
Brown's motion to suppress  is