Warrantless Search Incident To Arrest Research Papers Examples
In the case of Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, the Supreme Court upholds the suppression of plastic bag containing cocaine that was obtained from the vehicle of the accused as evidence, holding that it constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. The Constitutional provision under the Fourth Amendment requires that a valid warrant from the court must be secured when conducting arrests and searches. The conduct of search and seizures without going through a judicial process of securing a warrant that determines the probable cause of doing so is considered to be unreasonable and void. Thus, anything that is seized without a warrant will not be admissible before the court as evidence.
This Constitutional provision comes with an exception under the principle of a warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest, which provides that under an exigent circumstance, any arresting police authority may likewise seize evidence without any warrant after conducting a valid warrantless arrest. The search is mainly limited to plain view of the police officer and only under an exigent circumstance. An exigent circumstance refers to the urgent need to take action, such as when there is a danger of the destruction of evidence or access to weapon by the person who is arrested (Franklin, 1999).
A classic example of a valid warrantless arrest is automobile searches. The doctrine of warrantless arrest in automobile searches is upheld by the Supreme Court under the premise that the police authorities need not delay the administration of justice when they find a probable cause of making an arrest from a moving vehicle. Since time is of the essence in conducting the arrest, securing a valid warrant from the court is deemed impractical under this circumstance. The principle of a valid warrantless search is based on practicality concerns, or when the arresting officer is required to act quickly and reasonably dispensing with the need to secure a warrant (Bloom, 2003). A warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest may only be allowed under the law under two conditions namely the warrantless seach is only limited within the arrested person’s area of control, when the arrested person has an access to the compartment to get weapons or anything that could endanger the life of the arresting officer, or to destroy the evidence (Emanuel, 2009).
In the case of Gant, he was already handcuffed when the police search the vehicle and found the bag of cocaine. This is beyond the purview of a valid warrantless search incident to an arrest because the requirement of an exigent circumstance is not present. There is no longer danger to conduct the search because no danger to the life of the officers are present and Gant is no longer a threat considering he has already been handcuffed. The evidence obtained is no longer within the provision of the Constitution that allows a valid warrantless search incident to an arrest.
Bloom, R.M. (2003). Searches, seizures and warrants: A reference guide to the United States Constitution. Connecticut: Praeger Publishers.
Emanuel, S. (2009). Criminal procedure. New York: Aspen Publishers.
Franklin, C.J. (1999). Constitutional law for the criminal justice professional. Florida: CRC Press.