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New US Supreme Court ruling on warrantless vehicle searches

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

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6/22/2009
Jeff Cole
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On April 21, 2009, the United States Supreme Court decided a very important case that directly affects your individual rights.  Arizona v Gant establishes an important controlling precedent regarding police performing warrantless searches.  This decision holds that the Fourth Amendment requires police officers to demonstrate an actual and continuing threat to their safety, or a need to preserve evidence related to the crime of the arrest in order to justify a warrantless search of a vehicle after the driver and occupants have been arrested and secured. 

Many people mistakenly assume that if they are pulled over for any offense, including traffic violations, a warrantless search of their vehicle is fair game.  This is simply not true.  The Court has ruled that there are only certain, specific exceptions which allow a warrantless search of your vehicle.    If you are pulled over for a traffic offense, like the suspended driver’s license of Rodney Gant, the police may need a warrant to search your vehicle.  Remember, it is not rude to request a search warrant from a police officer; in fact it is your right as an American.


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