Arizona v. Gant, 129 S.Ct. 1710 (U.S. 2009).
Legality of Warrantless Search
Arizona v. Gant the Supreme Court departs from the bright-line rule defined in
New York v. Belton regarding automobile searches incident to arrest. In
Belton the Court held that police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle
and any containers therein as a contemporaneous incident of a recent occupant's
lawful arrest-on the ground that it concerned the scope of a search incident
to arrest. However the
Belton Court declined to answer the question of whether officers may conduct
a search once the scene has been secured. In
Gant, the Court defines
Belton as not authorizing a vehicle search incident to a recent occupant's
arrest after the arrestee has been secured and cannot access the interior
of the vehicle.
Here, the search was unreasonable because police could not reasonably have
believed either that the defendant could have accessed his car at the
time of the search or that evidence of the offense for which he was arrested
might have been found therein. The Supreme Court held that the police
may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to a recent
occupant's arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee
might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle
contains evidence of the offense of arrest.
Exceptions to the warrant requirement include: when an arrestee is within
reaching distance of the vehicle, when it is reasonable to believe the
vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest, and when safety or
evidentiary concerns demand.
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