Search Incident to Arrest

Thanks to, here is an article about Arizona v. Gant.

Arizona v. Gant: Does it Matter? by Barbara E. Armacost of the University of Virginia School of Law in 2009 S.Ct. Rev. __ (2010).

And from 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.

When Gant came before the Supreme Court, both law enforcement and the defense bar viewed it as a big deal. Defense attorneys urged the Supreme Court to eliminate the automatic Belton search, which was widely viewed as creating incentives for pretextual traffic stops and exploratory searches. Law enforcement officials argued against overruling Belton on the grounds that eliminating the vehicle SITA would compromise officer safety and hamstring police investigators. In my view, neither side got precisely what it wanted.

Please note the new link to the SCOTUS, and their newly designed site.