Search of Auto

Barbara E. Armacost (University of Virginia School of Law) has posted Arizona V. Gant: Does it Matter? (2009 Supreme Court Review, 2010) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Prior to the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Arizona v Gant, it was standard practice under New York v Belton for police to conduct a search incident to arrest (SITA) of the passenger compartment whenever they arrested the driver or a recent occupant of the vehicle. Police officers had begun to treat the SITA of a vehicle as a powerful investigative tool, using traffic stops and arrests to get a free search for evidence of more serious crimes At least as a formal matter, Arizona v Gant changed all this. In Gant the Supreme Court reviewed a Fourth Amendment challenge to an automobile search incident to arrest conducted after the driver had been arrested, handcuffed and secured in the police car. The Court held that police may not do a SITA of an automobile once the arrestee “has been secured and cannot access the interior of the vehicle” unless it is “reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle.” For all practical purposes this holding means the end of Belton SITAs. It is standard protocol for police to order a potential arrestee out of his automobile, frisk him, handcuff him, and secure him in the officer’s vehicle. This means that SITAs of automobiles will almost never be justified.

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