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."
This ruling is a good step in the direction of protecting our privacy, but it doesn't go far enough.
So, you get arrested for something like having a suspended license, and then put into the squad car.
Yes, the ruling is correct that a Belton search of your car should no longer be permitted. You can no longer reach anything in your car, so there is no "officer safety" reason to search your car.
Yes, the ruling is also correct that there is no preservation of evidence reason to search your car (in this specific case - arrest for suspended license).
So, in this specific case, Gant's car was on his property. But for 99% of cases like this, the car is going to be on the public roads.
Police will impound the car and do a inventory search.
So, I can only see this helping a very slim number of people.
The police's power to search has gotten completely out of hand. The best I can hope for is that this is a first step in SCOTUS reining them in.
Posted by: Samual at April 21, 2009 12:41 PM
How is the court supposed to treat an issue appealed where the winner in the lower court declines to brief or argue? Obviously they can't allow the lower court order to stand if it is worthy of review. Otherwise the winner at lower court would never have to face Supreme Court review. They could just not show up.
SCOTUS had to review Miller even absent the Miller's representation.
Posted by: Melancton Smith at April 21, 2009 01:02 PM
How about a Carroll Rule search or just an inventory search incident to arrest?
Posted by: copper at April 21, 2009 02:21 PM
Yeah. That incorporation doctrine works really well. We (the courts) can leave whatever holes we want in the actual right.
Cooley (1890) wrote that ALL SEARCHES required a warrant to be REASONABLE and that said warrant REQUIRED probable cause AND a listing of the particulars BEFORE the warrant was issued. This is what the 4th states textually. Why is it different today? Because the Courts have taken on powers that were never delegated to them, the people have been lied to and brainwashed into believing the courts have the last say, and too few of us know the truth that the Courts are subordinate to the Constitution and the Constitution is subordinate to We the People.
If the cops want to conduct ANY search the Constitution REQUIRES a warrant issued on PROBABLE CAUSE and stating the PARTICULARS, i.e. EXACTLY what is to be searched for. NOTHING less will do. It is time for We the People to demand obedience of our public servants (cops, judges, etc).
Tiochfaidh ar la!
Posted by: fwb at April 21, 2009 02:49 PM
Reading the ruling I can't help but wonder if inventory search is going to be the next to be struck down.
The court seems to be saying that searching a vehicle will only be permitted without a warrant when there is a genuine safety or evidentiary concern. Generally searching the vehicle incident to arrest seems like it has been struck down.
Posted by: PaperScissorsRock at April 21, 2009 04:45 PM
I'll be watching for the decision in yesterday's case of the 13 year-old girl who school authorities strip-searched, looking for an ibuprofen pill on nothing more than the uncorroborated word of another 13 year-old girl.
My fear is that the court will blow this one like they did in Kelo.
Posted by: Bill at April 22, 2009 11:24 AM
I find this case particulary interesting as I am a cop. I've already been threatend about the what not to do's anymore from the good ol'knee jerk reactions from our legal staff and commanding officers who don't bother reading between the fine lines here.
A supreme Courts decision is just that, a decision, not a rewriting of our rights per our constitution.
Posted by: Furion at April 26, 2009 01:56 PM
I came across a recent case where the state police conducted a traffic stop for speeding. Since the occupants were dressed in a manner as "plain clothes police officers". They were arrested and charged with impersonation.
The vehicle was searched during the traffic stop, because one of the occupants had an empty firearm holster. No weapon was located inside the vehicle. During the search of the other two occupants, an "alleged i.d. containing the department of homeland security seal" was recovered.
The vehicle was towed to the police station where another search of the vehicle was conducted as the "inventory search" to no avail. It was impounded and put on hold for "investigative purposes". Now, over 20 day later DHS along with the state police goes out and research the vehicle without a search warrant. During this search without a warrant, the officers recovers another i.d. similar to the other two occupants.
The impersonation charge has been dropped and the occupants are being charged for the i.d's
I would like to get a better understanding, is this a violation of that persons 4th Amendment Rights?
Posted by: Jon at January 17, 2010 04:04 AM