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Warrantless Vehicle Searches

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  • Warrantless Vehicle Searches

    HAS ANYONE HEARD ABOUT THIS:

    Supreme Court limits warrantless vehicle searches


    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police need a warrant to search the vehicle of someone they have arrested if the person is locked up in a patrol cruiser and poses no safety threat to officers. The court's 5-4 decision puts new limits on the ability of police to search a vehicle immediately after the arrest of a suspect.

    Justice John Paul Stevens said in the majority opinion that warrantless searches still may be conducted if a car's passenger compartment is within reach of a suspect who has been removed from the vehicle or there is reason to believe evidence of a crime will be found. "When these justifications are absent, a search of an arrestee's vehicle will be unreasonable unless police obtain a warrant," Stevens said. Justice Samuel Alito, in dissent, complained that the decision upsets police practice that has developed since the court first authorized warrantless searches immediately following an arrest. "There are cases in which it is unclear whether an arrestee could retrieve a weapon or evidence," Alito said. Even more confusing, he said, is asking police to determine whether the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. "What this rule permits in a variety of situations is entirely unclear," Alito said.

    The decision backs an Arizona high court ruling in favor of Rodney Joseph Gant, who was handcuffed, seated in the back of a patrol car and under police supervision when Tucson, Ariz., police officers searched his car. They found cocaine and drug paraphernalia. The trial court said the evidence could be used against Gant, but Arizona appeals courts overturned the convictions because the officers already had secured the scene and thus faced no threat to their safety or concern about evidence being preserved.

    The state and the Bush administration complained that ruling would impose a "dangerous and unworkable test" that would complicate the daily lives of law enforcement officers.

    The justices divided in an unusual fashion. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, David Souter and Clarence Thomas joined the majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy were in dissent along with Alito.

    I LOVE IT!
    "GET BACK IN YOUR CELL"
    "PLEASE REMAIN SEATED IN YOUR VEHICLE AND I'LL BE WITH YOU IN A MINUTE"
    WHO EVER SAID THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS WOULDN'T BE FUN.

  • #2
    When I get this information in an official format I will be concerned.
    09

    Comment


    • #3
      This is about two months old. Search incident to arrest of a vehicle is no longer allowed because the suspect doesn't present a threat if he/she is secured. The way around it is if you can arrest then you have to inventory the vehicle anyway.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Pete12 View Post
        This is about two months old. Search incident to arrest of a vehicle is no longer allowed because the suspect doesn't present a threat if he/she is secured. The way around it is if you can arrest then you have to inventory the vehicle anyway.
        Exactly the way I was thinking.

        BTW..........I just found out about this and didn't know that it was that old.
        I LOVE IT!
        "GET BACK IN YOUR CELL"
        "PLEASE REMAIN SEATED IN YOUR VEHICLE AND I'LL BE WITH YOU IN A MINUTE"
        WHO EVER SAID THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS WOULDN'T BE FUN.

        Comment


        • #5
          This came out well over a month ago, and it concerns me if your department hasn't put out an official legal bulleton on it. Does it limit us? Yeah a little bit, it means that you can't throw someone in handcuffs for DWLSR, search their car, and let them go with a court date when you don't find something.

          All it means is a little more work for us. People seem to sometimes think that plain view means only if you see it. Wrong! Any cop who has ever made an arrest for weed (or been around someone who has) knows what weed smells like. If you smell it, rip the car apart! If you have a dog handy, us it! A no hit for a K9 is still a stat, don't limit your K9 use to "Oh I just KNOW there's drugs in here, but I can't get in." Not all of us always have unlimited K9 use of course, but if you have it use it.

          One thing you have to be careful of is inventory prior to tow. Inventory does not mean breaking open locked containers.

          The Supreme Court is always throwing out decisions that impact our day to day work. Sometimes, like these, people say "OH MY GOD HOW WILL WE EVER DO OUR JOB!!!", and then they adapt and overcome. Sometimes they come out on our side, and the defense says "OH MY GOD HOW WILL WE EVER DEFEND AGAINST THEM!"... and then they adapt and overcome.

          Again, SSheriff, this ruling came out before you were even on the road, so it SHOULD be all you know.

          Comment


          • #6
            Unfortunately Chris, this is new information to me. We did our "legal" section of the academy in August of last year, so this was not even into law. When this came out, I wasn't even hired. I'm glad I know now.
            09

            Comment


            • #7
              The other way other than an inventory of the vehicle is to search for "evidence" of the crime for which the person is arrested. I prefer the inventory as long as it falls within department policy, but according to our legal advisors a search for "evidence" is justifed as long as you articulate as such.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by N/E FL LEO View Post
                The other way other than an inventory of the vehicle is to search for "evidence" of the crime for which the person is arrested. I prefer the inventory as long as it falls within department policy, but according to our legal advisors a search for "evidence" is justifed as long as you articulate as such.
                Exactly, if you arrest them for DUI, it's pretty fair to say that their may be evidence of intoxication in the vehicle.

                Here's a question actually. If you already have someone placed under arrest but have no intention on reading them miranda, does them saying "yes" to a request to search the car count as self incrimination? Any SAOs in the house?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Remember to use the word inventory and not search. We all know what the actions are, but you don't want a case tossed for using the wrong wording. Search indicates that you are looking for something whereas inventory indicates that you are just looking to see what is in the vehicle to properly list it on the tow slip.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pete12 View Post
                    Remember to use the word inventory and not search. We all know what the actions are, but you don't want a case tossed for using the wrong wording. Search indicates that you are looking for something whereas inventory indicates that you are just looking to see what is in the vehicle to properly list it on the tow slip.
                    Exactly, well said.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The scope of a search incident to arrest is the arrestee’s person and the areas “within the immediate control of the arrestee” at the time of the arrest. See Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969). However, a search incident to arrest may also include a vehicle in which the arrested person was a passenger just before the arrest. See Thornton v. U.S., 541 U.S. 615 (2004).

                      Arizona v. Gant, U.S. Supreme Court (2009), has refined the scope of searches incident to arrest involving vehicles. Officers may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to the arrest of an occupant only when the arrestee is unsecured and the passenger compartment is within reaching distance of the arrestee or if it is “reasonable” to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the crime for which the subject was arrested. Under New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 (1981), the scope of a vehicle search incident to arrest includes the entire passenger compartment, and all containers located therein, locked or unlocked. The trunk of a sedan is not considered part of the passenger compartment, but the rear area of a van or SUV is included in the search area. Officers should document the facts and circumstances on which they relied for decisions regarding a search and be prepared to articulate those reasons at a deposition or hearing.

                      Sometimes, an officer may suspect that evidence of criminal activity is in a vehicle, but the officer won’t have enough information for reasonable suspicion to make a stop. However, if the driver of the vehicle commits a traffic infraction, or if the vehicle shows evidence of an equipment violation such as a broken taillight, the officer may stop the vehicle on that basis. Such stops are sometimes called pretext stops because the officer stops the vehicle due to equipment violation but really wants to investigate other, more serious criminal activity. Pretext stops were formerly considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment. However, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806 (1996), said that the courts are not required to consider an officer’s motive for stopping a vehicle as long as the officer had an objective basis for the stop. Because of Whren, pretext stops do not violate the Fourth Amendment. Thus, a detective who suspects that a vehicle contains drugs can stop the driver for failing to signal for a turn. This stop is valid even if the detective is not assigned to traffic patrol and does not normally stop drivers who fail to signal for turns.

                      An inventory of a vehicle is a recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment search warrant requirement. An inventory is conducted to protect the vehicle and contents, safeguard the agency and others from danger, and protect officers and custodians against false claims of loss or damage. The inventory should document the vehicle’s overall condition, such as mileage or damage, as well as contents and equipment like a radio, CD player, rims, and GPS units. An officer does not need probable cause to inventory a vehicle because the purpose of an inventory is to document items in or on a vehicle, not to search for evidence of a crime. Courts uphold the legality of an inventory the agency has an established, written policy requiring inventories and officers agency employees follow it that policy.

                      Maybe that will clarify it a bit..
                      Last edited by ShadowWarrior; 06-29-2009, 04:58 AM.
                      Police Academy Commander
                      Lead Firearms Instructor
                      35+ years as a cop
                      Becoming a Police Officer
                      So you think you can do this job?


                      I accept all private messages requesting help or advice, why else bother to be here?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        One thing to remember in an inventory, it's kind of hard to articulate what you were attempting to "inventory" for when you found the 3 crack rocks stuffed inside the dash.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Nicely put ShadowWarrior!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by StudChris View Post
                            Exactly, if you arrest them for DUI, it's pretty fair to say that their may be evidence of intoxication in the vehicle.

                            Here's a question actually. If you already have someone placed under arrest but have no intention on reading them miranda, does them saying "yes" to a request to search the car count as self incrimination? Any SAOs in the house?
                            StudChris,

                            I would say a search does not qualify as a "guilt seeking question." That's why there is search and seizure law (4th Amendment) and self-incrimination law (5th Amendment, Miranda, etc.).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Another way to handle this ruling, but one requiring some extra care is to place the suspect, unrestrained at the front of the vehicle while you conduct this search. It is best to have a second officer present when doing this procedure. With the suspect unrestrained and in close proximity to the vehicle, he/she has the ability to see what is happening, and has access to any items in or arround the passenger compartment.

                              Comment

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