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Bearcat Chapter of NAPD Adds Another SCOTUS Ruling to its Amicus Record

The National Association for Public Defense played an important role in expanding Fourth Amendment protections in the Supreme Court's recent decision in Byrd v. United States. At issue was the Third Circuit's holding that drivers of rental vehicles who are not listed on the rental agreement lack a reasonable expectation of privacy in the rental car.
The National Association for Public Defense played an important role in expanding Fourth Amendment protections in the Supreme Court's recent decision in Byrd v. United States. At issue was the Third Circuit's holding that drivers of rental vehicles who are not listed on the rental agreement lack a reasonable expectation of privacy in the rental car.

The NAPD submitted an amicus brief, urging the Supreme Court to grant certiorari. The Amicus Committee received outstanding pro bono representation from the Washington D.C. firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as well as excellent research and drafting assistance from students from the University of Cincinnati College of Law's NAPD Bearcat Chapter.  This initial brief decried the Third Circuit's limitation of Fourth Amendment protections to those who can purchase contractually-documented property rights. The brief urged the Supreme Court to acknowledge the social expectation of privacy rights created through increased reliance on shared modes of transportation, especially among marginalized and underserved communities.

After the Court granted certiorari, the NAPD filed an amicus brief on the merits in conjunction with the National Association of Federal Defenders. This brief extended and deepened the organization's prior analysis of socially generated privacy expectations in the context of shared transportation and car rental contracts.  Among other arguments, the NAPD merits brief highlighted the distinctive inability of low-income communities to exercise meaningful bargaining power over the terms of rental car agreements and other documents that function effectively as contracts of adhesion.

In a 9-0 unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. In so doing, the Supreme Court squarely rejected the Third Circuit's proposition that the driver of a rental vehicle not listed on the rental agreement can never enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy in that car. The court held that such a per se rule would be “too restrictive” in its interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. Instead, the Court emphasized Fourth Amendment protection of privacy interests.  Drawing on its decisions in Jones v. United States and Rakas v. Illinois, the Court held that a person in lawful possession of a rental car, capable of excluding others, enjoys a reasonable expectation of privacy in that car.  This is so regardless of whether the person is listed on a rental agreement.

The Court's unanimous decision in Byrd is a victory for the rapidly-growing population that relies on the sharing economy to access transportation, including millions of people who live in marginalized and underserved communities. The ruling is a much-needed judicial affirmation that reasonable, socially-determined expectations of privacy that are protected by the Fourth Amendment are not confined exclusively to those who can afford to purchase a contractually-defined interest in property.

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NAPD News

December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.
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October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

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July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. 
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January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE
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