REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2013-CA-001570 BOONE
CIRCUIT COURT NO. 13-XX-00001
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Steven Joseph Megerle Megerle Law
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of
Kentucky Jennifer Kathi Wright-Hatfield Special Assistant
Gregory Traft, was driving during the early morning hours and
Boone County Deputy Sheriff Adam Schepis was traveling in the
opposite direction. Schepis's police car was equipped
with a camera that could read license plates in order to
provide information about the vehicle and the vehicle's
registered owner to law enforcement officers.. The record
check performed by the license plate camera indicated that
Traft, the vehicle's registered owner, had an active
warrant for failing to appear in court. Schepis turned
and followed Traft, and eventually puiled the vehicle over.
Traft asserts that it is undisputed that he committed no
traffic infractions while Schepis followed him.
on his knowledge that the owner of the vehicle was subject to
a warrant for failure to appear, Schepis stopped the vehicle
registered to Traft. As it turned out, Traft was the driver.
Once he stopped the truck, Schepis noticed several signs that
Traft was intoxicated. According to the citation, Traft
failed field sobriety tests, admitted to drinking too many
beers, and had a blood. alcohol level of nearly twice the
legal limit according to Schepis's portable breathalyzer.
Schepis arrested Traft for driving under the influence and on
an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court.
trial, Traft filed a motion to suppress the traffic stop,
arguing that Schepis violated his right to privacy when he
reviewed his license and registration information for no
reason. The Boone District Court denied that motion and Traft
entered a conditional guilty plea to the DUI charge. He
appealed to the Boone Circuit Court, which affirmed. The
Court of Appeals granted Traft's motion for discretionary
review and affirmed. Traft then filed a motion for
discretionary review with this Court, which we granted. We
Traft's allegations of error stem from what he argues to
be violations of his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the
United States Constitution,  we will begin our analysis there.
The Fourth Amendment provides, in pertinent part: "The
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,
papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures shall not be violated .... " "Since
Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, . . . (1967), the
touchstone of Fourth Amendment analysis has been the question
whether a person has a 'constitutionally protected
reasonable expectation of privacy."' Oliver v.
United States, 466 U.S. 170, 177 (1984) (quoting
Katz, 389 U.S. at 360 (Harlan, J., concurring)).
Therefore, our analysis turns upon whether Traft had a
reasonable expectation of privacy in either his license plate
or what he terms his "protected personal
information" gleaned therefrom.
argues the information gathered by Schepis from his license
plate was protected under the Fourth Amendment. In
determining whether this is the case, we find Justice
Harlan's explanation from his concurring opinion in
Katz instructive. Therein, Justice Harlan stated:
"there is a twofold requirement, first that a person
have exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy
and, second, that the expectation be one that society is
prepared to recognize as 'reasonable."
Katz, 389 U.S. at 361. Furthermore, "the
State's intrusion into a particular area . . . cannot
result in a Fourth Amendment violation unless the area is one
in which there is a 'constitutionally' protected
reasonable expectation of privacy.” New
York v. Class, 475 U.S. 106, 112 (1986) (quoting
Katz, 389 U.S. at 360 (Harlan, J., concurring)).
Traft certainly had no reasonable expectation of privacy in
his license plate-either subjectively or objectively. The
plate was displayed on the exterior of Traft's vehicle
(as required by law), while Traft drove on a public street.
Likewise, Schepis was driving on the same public street when
he observed Traft's vehicle and collected the information
from his license plate. It is well settled that "[w]hat
a person knowingly exposes to the public ... is not a subject
of Fourth Amendment protection." Katz, 389 U.S.
at 351. Furthermore, "objects falling in the plain view
of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have
that view are subject to seizure ...'.." Harris
v. United States, 390 U.S. 234, 236 (1968). We
agree with the Sixth Circuit, which held:
No argument can be made that a motorist seeks to keep the
information on his license plate private. The very purpose of
a license plate number, like that of a Vehicle Identification
Number, is to provide identifying information to law
enforcement officials and others. The reasoning in [New
York v.] Class[,475 U.S. 106 (1986)] vis-a-vis Vehicle
Identification Numbers applies with equal force to license
plates: "[B]ecause of the important role played by the
[license plate] in the pervasive governmental regulation of
the automobile and the efforts by the Federal Government to
ensure that the [license ...