Vehicle Search Incident to a Lawful Arrest: The New Two-Part Rule from Arizona v. Gant Misses the Mark
Geocaris, Alexander J.
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This Note examines the recent Supreme Court decision of Arizona v. Gant and how it affects a vehicle search incident to a lawful arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. The rationales for a search incident to a lawful arrest were established by Chimel v. California to search the reachable area of an arrestee for an officer's safety and to prevent the destruction of evidence. In New York v. Belton, the Supreme Court established a bright-line rule that officers may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle as incident to a lawful arrest since the Court found that Chimel was difficult to apply in the vehicle context. In Arizona v. Gant, the Supreme Court established a two-part rule for a search incident to a lawful arrest that limited Belton since Belton's bright-line did not follow Chimel, and the rule permitted unreasonable searches. Gant's two-part rule departs from the reasoning of both Chimel and Belton, and will have a significant impact on the search incident to a lawful arrest exception. This Note concludes that the Court should have taken a different approach instead of its two-part rule. As an alternative approach, this Note recommends a rule that combines Belton with the second-part of Gant's rule.