Interesting 4th Amendment decision today
Opinion handed down today in Arizona v. Gant. Gant was arrested for driving on a suspended license, handcuffed and put in the squadcar. Officers then (with no probable cause) searched his car and found cocaine.
Traditional reasons for search incident to arrest were officer safety, to make sure there was no weapon within reach, and also to prevent destruction of evidence. Rationale for this search was New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454, 460 (1981). which laid out a "bright line test" -- a lawful arrest justifies search of a vehicle incident to it, and the Court wasn't going to listen to debates about whether this or that part of the car were within the arrestee's reach.
Arizona v. Gant held that doesn't apply where the arrestee has been secured and removed from the vehicle. What's interesting is that it's written by Stevens. In Heller, Stevens argued for adhering to his reading of US v. Miller even tho he agreed that only one side had briefed or argued in that appeal. Stare decisis, precedent, bound the Court no matter what.
In Gant, stare decisis seems decidedly less important:
"The doctrine of stare decisis is of course “essential to the respect accorded to the judgments of the Court and to the stability of the law,” but it does not compel us to follow a past decision when its rationale no longer withstands “careful analysis.” Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558, 577 (2003) ."
"The doctrine of stare decisis does not require us to approve routine constitutional violations."