Potentially, yes. If you do not have permission to be driving the vehicle, then you are committing a crime and can be arrested. However, a recent United States Supreme Court case held that even if you have permission to drive someone else’s vehicle, it is possible that you could still be pulled over-even though you are not committing a crime.
Why would I be pulled over if I didn’t commit a crime?
There are a number of reasons that a police officer can pull you over; please read our blog “Can You Be Pulled Over For a Traffic Violation Even If You Didn’t Commit a Crime?” for a better understanding of some of those reasons.
Why could I be pulled over even if I have permission to drive someone else’s vehicle?
Based on the United States Supreme Court decision in Kansas v. Glover released earlier this month, a police officer is now legally allowed to assume that the person driving a vehicle is the registered owner of that vehicle. If the registered owner of that vehicle has a suspended or revoked license, then a police officer is allowed to pull over the vehicle to investigate whether the driver of the vehicle is committing a crime (i.e. driving without a valid license or driving under suspension).
This means that if you borrow a vehicle from someone that has a suspended or revoked license, you may be legally stopped and questioned by a police officer that assumed that the owner was driving the vehicle.
Are there any limitations on a police officer pulling me over in this situation?
Yes. In Glover, the Supreme Court made it clear that an officer can only assume that the registered driver is operating the vehicle if the officer does not have knowledge or facts that contradict that assumption. In other words, if a police officer has reason to believe that the registered owner is not the person operating the vehicle, then the officer cannot pull you over-at least based solely on the law in the Glover case.
This means cars that have tinted windows are more likely to be pulled over if the registered owner has a suspended or revoked license because a police officer cannot identify the driver. This also means it is more likely that a vehicle owned by a person with a suspended or revoked license will be pulled over at night or in other situations where it is hard to immediately identify the driver without pulling over the vehicle.
What should I do if I am pulled over because the owner of the vehicle has a suspended or revoked license?
If an officer pulls over the vehicle you borrowed to investigate whether you are the registered owner of that vehicle and driving without a valid license, the officer is engaged in what the law calls “an investigatory stop.” That means that the officer does not have probable cause to arrest you yet and is trying to gather more information.
Investigatory stops offer you more protection under the United States and Ohio Constitutions than a stop based on evidence of a crime (i.e. stops made based on probable cause). These stops are supposed to be brief and are limited to investigating if a crime is being committed or has been committed. In other words, the officer in the borrowed car situation should only need to know (1) are you the registered owner of vehicle; (2) do you have permission to drive the vehicle from the registered owner; and (3) are you a validly licensed driver?
As soon as those questions are answered, the officer should let you leave because the “reasonable suspicion” that the officer had that a crime happened has been eliminated. If you are not free to leave after the officer has answered these questions, then you may have been illegally detained.
How should I handle the interaction with the police officer?
Provide the information that is required to answer the police officer’s questions as quickly and respectfully as you can. As soon as you can prove that you are not the registered owner, that you have permission to drive the vehicle from the owner, and that you are legally allowed to drive, then you should be free to leave. While it may be a minor inconvenience to have to provide this information, arguing, lying, or delaying the officer’s investigation could lead you to being arrested or endangering your safety.
In this situation, an officer is legally allowed to ask you your name, for your license and insurance, for proof that you have permission to drive the vehicle from the owner, and for you to step out of the vehicle for officer safety (this could also involve a brief pat down of your clothes to make certain you do not have a weapon). That does not mean that you have to consent to a search of the vehicle, your person (beyond a brief pat down for weapons), or containers in the vehicle. It also does not mean that you have to provide the officer with other information besides what is necessary to eliminate the officer’s suspicion that you were the registered owner and driving illegally.
Knowing your constitutional rights is important. It is also important that you assert them affirmatively-as in you cannot assert your rights through silence or a question-and professionally. For example, “I do not consent to a search,” or “I have no further statements to make at this time.” If you are held for longer than is typically necessary to investigate the situation because you delayed the officer by being uncooperative, then you might not only be arrested, but you have also most likely undermined your ability to later argue that you were illegally detained.
If you have been pulled over and charged with a crime, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal trial attorney to make sure that the stop was legal and that your rights were not violated. A violation of your constitutional rights means that the government may be prohibited from using certain evidence or statements at trial.