Sunday, April 8, 2012

Law Regarding Police Warrantless Search Of Vehicles

Things transpire quickly when police make an arrest. Generally, that person being charged doesn't have time to contemplate what his or her rights might be considering the instance is intimidating. It is, thereby, important that you become familiar with your rights if you ever are charged. If you are arrested in or in close proximity to your car or truck you will need to comprehend how and to what degree the authorities can lawfully search your automobile in the course of your charge.

In April 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Arizona v. Gant which addressed the power of police officers to undertake a search of a auto incident to an arrest. The Court ruled that unless police officers have a properly executed search warrant for the motor vehicle during the time of the arrest, the fact that law enforcement officials can only search the vehicle if:

· The suspect might grab a weapon.
· The suspect may try to get rid of evidence; or
· It may be reasonable for the authorities to believe that there is evidence in the auto that supports the wrongdoing for which that person is now being arrested.

The Court stressed that searches conducted without having a search warrant are presumptively prohibited and that a search of a vehicle incident to an arrest is an exception to that standard law. Due to the fact a search of a car or truck incident to an arrest is an exception to the law, just very limited searches may be permitted.

This verdict reduces the law enforcement community’s understanding of the 1981 Supreme Court decision in New York v. Belton. Law enforcement officials, relying on the Belton ruling, had been frequently searching the passenger section of automobiles every time a driver or passenger of an auto was arrested. This warrantless search was executed each time an arrest was made without regard to whether the suspect was in a situation to reach for a weapon or destroy evidence and without regard as to if there was clearly cause to believe that there was evidence in the car supporting the charge.

The Court's ruling in Arizona v. Gant expects law enforcement officials to reevaluate when they may lawfully search cars and trucks at the time of an arrest. For instance, when the suspect has been detained and is securely in police custody then the first two exceptions may not make an application since it is no longer conceivable for the suspect to grab for a weapon or make an attempt to destroy evidence in the vehicle. Whether the third exception might apply depends on the cause of the arrest. If the defendant is charged with a traffic offense which includes DWI, for example, then the authorities could not search the motor vehicle to determine if there is evidence connected to a new theft in the region because the suspect was not arrested for a robbery but instead for drunk driving.

The Supreme Court's recent decision makes clear that the earlier approach of routine vehicle searches incident to an arrest is unlawful. Instead, searches may only occur in distinct narrowed occasions. It is a resolution that law enforcement officials have criticized and that defense attorneys have welcomed.

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