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Thread: mixed messages on 4th amendment rulings

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    This story is a bit vague, and I admit that, in practice anyway,it concerns "pretext" searches for drugs more than guns, but I still though it at least obliquely relevant to the forum - http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-search22-2009apr22,0,831398.story. Can probably find better details by Googling the Gant case.

    The ruling tightens the standards for vehicle searches. There is still a potential "loophole" to conduct searches of vehicles for officer's safety if they have reason to suspect that someone stopped might yet have access to a weapon during a stop, but that's hard to argue if they already have someone removed from a vehicle.

    Also, in Ohio, a court ruled that game wardens had broader latitude to conduct warrantless intrusions onto private property - http://www.thenews-messenger.com/article/20090417/OPINION02/904170309. Again, you can probably find better copy for the story, but it was the first article I came across.

    -ljp

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    The Gant ruling is really quite simple and elegant if looked at by the issues in the case directly.

    Gant was arrested OUTSIDE of his locked vehicle. That takes Seaches Incident To Arrest (SITA) and solidifies the line of when a LEO can conduct a vehicle search without a warrant and when they can't.

    The LEO safety aspect of the ruling states that the warrantless search can only be conducted if the suspect still has reasonable access to interior of vehicle where any weapon could be found or evidence of suspected crime could be destroyed. Since Gant was already cuffed and sitting in the back of patrol car, he had no access to interior of car.

    Another civil protection this case provides is as follows,

    If LEO stops driver for speeding, runs license, and finds it suspended so he arrests driver...in the past, said LEO would now search arrested persons car to fish for any other evidence of crimes. After the ruling, said LEO cannot search vehicle after arresting driver on suspended license because, per the ruling, no evidence to solidify case against suspended license would/could EVER be found in car, so no fishing expedition by warrantless search is possible and if warrantless search is conducted, then any evidence found is inadmissable against any additional crimes charged with.

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    Yeah, that's what I meant - the case itself is much clearer than the reporting about it I've seen (or even my own posting apparently... oops). In any case, I hope this will put a dent in bogus "pretext" stops, although since most people consent to searches anyway, it may not discourage the practice much.

    I do have a question that wasn't specifically addressed - obviously searching a car is irrelevant to a charge for driving without a valid license, but I wonder what constraints this puts on "incident" searches where a search might reveal evidence directly relevant to the arrest? I gather from this that as long as someone arrested is not in a position to destroy or remove such evidence, that it still requires a warrant. But then if they are under arrest, they are presumably not at liberty to access their vehicle, as mentioned, unless we end up with some oxymoronic category of non-custodial arrest.

    -ljp

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    Legba wrote:
    I do have a question that wasn't specifically addressed - obviously searching a car is irrelevant to a charge for driving without a valid license, but I wonder what constraints this puts on "incident" searches where a search might reveal evidence directly relevant to the arrest? I gather from this that as long as someone arrested is not in a position to destroy or remove such evidence, that it still requires a warrant. But then if they are under arrest, they are presumably not at liberty to access their vehicle, as mentioned, unless we end up with some oxymoronic category of non-custodial arrest.

    -ljp
    that's definitely where the decision makes the law a little murky. there will be clear cut cases, such as the invalid license type, where an arrest cannot lead to a incident search, however, nothing stops that officer from having the car towed and impounded so that they can search while they inventory. Also, in cases such as the DUI, it wouldn't take much to convince a judge that said LEOs incident search was for any other evidence related to drinking or drug use while driving. reasonable suspicion can be easily provided by an officer statement of 'i still smelt alcohol or some other substance'.

    I've read on officer.com that the LEOs over there will continue to arrest, search, and or inventory on everything. Some have gone so far as to say they will just call backup and have the suspect standing near the car to search before they actually arrest.

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    Well, a warrant is supposed to specifically describe the things to be seized, so if it is the case that one is now required, "evidence" recovered from a post-arrest "inventory check" may no longer be admissable. This should prove interesting - probably in a bad way.

    I doubt it will be any hardship for the police to obtain warrants to search for relevant evidence in any case - it should just discourage them from trying to arbitrarily turn every routine traffic stop into something else.

    -ljp

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    There are still inventory searches if the vehicle is to be impounded. Drugs etc will still be found. The ruling makes sense and is consistant with established 4A law.

    Not much changes, just clarification of what is done and why.

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    AZkopper wrote:
    There are still inventory searches if the vehicle is to be impounded. Drugs etc will still be found. The ruling makes sense and is consistant with established 4A law.

    Not much changes, just clarification of what is done and why.
    ok so they conduct an inventory search at impound--if they find anything can it be used, or is it the fruit of an illegal search and seizure?

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    DKSuddeth wrote:
    Another civil protection this case provides is as follows,

    If LEO stops driver for speeding, runs license, and finds it suspended so he arrests driver...in the past, said LEO would now search arrested persons car to fish for any other evidence of crimes. After the ruling, said LEO cannot search vehicle after arresting driver on suspended license because, per the ruling, no evidence to solidify case against suspended license would/could EVER be found in car, so no fishing expedition by warrantless search is possible and if warrantless search is conducted, then any evidence found is inadmissable against any additional crimes charged with.
    Not entirely true, since you are supposed to send the licence back to the DMV.
    You could in theory be searching for the licence that should have been returned.
    Now if the 'perp' has it in his wallet out of the car, then you would be OK
    with stopping a search.

    But does the leo have the ability to search for the insurence and registration?

    Your safest bet is to be an AL rep. Then you can ignore the law and skate on it.
    To date we have had, DUI, Hit and Run, No Insurence, No Licence, No Tags,
    Speeding, Reckless Driving, and multiples of all the above with no criminal
    charges against those crooks.




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