Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Search of Vehicles

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a major decision impacting the warrantless search of a vehicle. In the case, Rodney Joseph Gant, had been pulled over in Arizona and arrested for driving with no license. He was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the squad car. The arresting officers then searched his car and found illegal drugs and charged him with possession of drugs. The trial court allowed the seized drugs into evidence and Grant was convicted of the drug offense. The Arizona Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and in a 5 to 4 decision, the United States Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court ruled that when a suspect is locked up and secured in the squad car and poses no threat to anyone, the police need a warrant to conduct a search of the vehicle. It seems as if this decision places limits on the police's ability to search a vehicle, especially when the reason for the offense is nothing more serious than a traffic offense. The majority opinion indicated that the police would be justified in searching the vehicle if the passenger compartment is within reach of the subject and the officers had reason to believe that evidence of the crime for which the defendant was being arrested would be found within the vehicle. Unless those factors were present, the Court said that a warrant would be necessary to conduct a search of the vehicle.

This opinion seems to place restrictions on a "Search Incident to a Lawful Arrest." It seems that this decision will mainly affect individuals arrested for traffic offenses.

The case is Arizona v. Gant, 07-542.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.thelegaldefenders.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

No comments:

The Legal Defenders, PC

70 West Madison, Ste 1400 * Chicago * IL 60602 * Phone: (800) 228-7295 * Fax: (800) 604-0507