Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Supreme Court Limits Belton Searches
The Supreme Court issued an opinion today in Arizona v. Gant, 2009 WL 1045962 (April 21, 2009), holding that police may search a passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only with reasonable belief that arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. The Court's decision places a limit on the Belton rule, allowing search of passenger compartments, to situations where the interests of officer safety or preservation of evidence (Chimel v. California) are present. In other words, if the defendant is secured in a patrol car already - no warrantless search!