Arizona v. Gant

Why is the case important?

Question

Is a search conducted by police officers after handcuffing the defendant and securing the scene a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures?

Conclusion

Yes, under the circumstances of this case. The Supreme Court held that police may search the vehicle of its recent occupant after his arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of the arrest. With Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority and joined by Justices Antonin G. Scalia, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court reasoned that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable” and subject only to a few, very narrow exceptions. Here, Mr. Gant was arrested for a suspended license and the narrow exceptions did not apply to his case. Justice Scalia wrote separately, concurring. Justice Samuel A. Alito dissented and was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer. He argued that the majority improperly overruled its precedent in New York v. Belton which held that “when a policeman has made a lawful arrest… he may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile.” Justice Stephen G. Breyer also wrote a separate dissenting opinion, where he lamented that the court could not create a new governing rule. Learn more about the Roberts Court and the Fourth Amendment in Shifting Scales , a nonpartisan Oyez resource.

Advocates:
Joseph T. Maziarz argued the cause for the petitioner
Anthony A. Yang Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner, Thomas F. Jacobs argued the cause for the respondent
Location:
2524 N. Walnut
Respondent:
Rodney Joseph Gant
Petitioner:
Arizona
Roberts Court
Citation:
556 US 332 (2009)
Granted:
Feb 25, 2008
Argued:
Oct 7, 2008
Decided:
Apr 21, 2009