Justices To Review Auto Searches when driver has been arrested and moved from scene

Feb. 26, 2008

In another development on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted an appeal from the State of Arizona on whether the police need a warrant to search a car after arresting the driver and any passengers and removing them from the car’s vicinity. 

Over the years, the Supreme Court has ruled on so many permutations of automobile searches that it might have seemed safe to assume that all possible questions had been answered. But the one presented by this case, Arizona v. Gant, No. 07-542, evidently has not been. 

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that once a car’s occupants had been arrested and secured, presenting no threat to officers on the scene, there were no “exigent circumstances? to justify a search without warrants, and that the Fourth Amendment required a warrant. 

Arizona is arguing that its Supreme Court places too great a burden on the police by underestimating the threat to their safety and requiring them to make detailed assessments of different circumstances. Instead, the state argues, there should be a “bright-line rule? that permitted searches without warrants of cars whose occupants had just been arrested. 


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