Photo: flickr/Tim Sackton

Photo: flickr/Tim Sackton

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that rental car drivers have the right to privacy and can refuse a search from the police, regardless of whether or not the driver is authorized to use the vehicle.

The court said that Terrence Byrd, who was arrested after police found heroin and illegal body armor in the trunk of a rental car under Byrd's girlfriend's name, had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car.

Police officers told Byrd that they had the right to search the vehicle because it was not rented under his name. The court argued that police violated his right against unconstitutional searches.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the ruling that there are legitimate reasons that an unauthorized driver could be operating a rental vehicle, including acting as a designated driver for an inebriated renter. Violation of a rental agreement does not necessarily justify a breach of privacy, he wrote.

Byrd initially plead guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison before appealing his case.

Related: Supreme Court Leans Toward Protecting Drivers in Rental Case