US Supreme Court issues favorable search & seizure opinion

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In Arizona v. Gant, a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Stevens, the Court holds that Arizona police officers violated a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights by searching his car for narcotics after he was arrested for driving on a suspended license.  Police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrester person might have access to the vehicle at the time of the search or that vehicle contains evidence of the offense for which the person was arrested.  The Court distinguishes New York v. Belton on the ground that in this case the scene had been secured and in Belton it had not.  Here, the search incident to arrest was not justified by an interest in officer safety or the interest of preserving evidence concerning the offense for which the occupant was under arrest.

The majority opinion was joined by Justices Scalia, Souter, Thomas and Ginsburg.  Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion.  Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion.  Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion which was joined entirely by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy and joined in part by Justice Breyer.

The opinion should not be a major change in Nevada as the Nevada Supreme Court has already rejected a broad reading of Belton on state constitutional grounds.  See Camacho v. State, 119 Nev. 395, 399-400, 75 P.3d 370, 373-74 (2003).

 

The Court also issued opinions in two civil cases - Ministry of Defense and Support for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran v. Elahi (collection of debt against Iran by attachment of a judgment in the US) and Shinseki v. Sanders (standard for assessing harmlessness for failure to provide proper notice in Veterans Administration cases for claims of disability).

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This page contains a single entry by JoNell published on April 21, 2009 8:29 AM.

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