Supreme Court limits car searches

Yet another victory for criminals everywhere. My buddy at Chicago PD tells me all the time that this country is “going downhill fast” and I tend to believe him….

Merely arresting a driver does not ‘provide a police entitlement’ to search the vehicle, says Justice John Paul Stevens

The Supreme Court put a new limit on police searches of cars Tuesday, saying that “countless individuals guilty of nothing more serious than a traffic violation” have had their vehicles searched in violation of rights in recent decades.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices set aside a 1981 opinion that had given police broad authority to search cars whenever they make an arrest.

Instead, the justices said an arresting officer can search a vehicle only if weapons are potentially in reach of the suspect or if there is reason to believe the car contains evidence related to the arrest.

Justice John Paul Stevens, speaking for the court, said merely arresting a driver does not “provide a police entitlement” to search the vehicle without a warrant.

He said the court’s past rulings gave police too much leeway.

The case arose when Rodney Gant was arrested in Tucson, Ariz., for driving with a suspended license. Officers handcuffed Gant and put him in a patrol car. Then they searched his car and found a gun and cocaine in a jacket in the back seat.

He was convicted on drug charges, but the Arizona Supreme Court threw out evidence on the grounds the search of his car without a warrant was unreasonable. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that decision Tuesday.

—David G. Savage, Washington Bureau,0,2047842.story

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