What rationale supports the " search incident to arrest" ...?
What rationale supports the " search incident to arrest" exception to the warrant requirement? describe the limitations the courts impose on such searches?
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Search Incident to Arrest
Legal Research Home > United States Constitution > Search Incident to Arrest
Search Incident to Arrest.—The common-law rule permitting searches of the person of an arrestee as an incident to the arrest has occasioned little controversy in the Court.216 The dispute has centered around the scope of the search. Since it was the stated general rule that the scope of a warrantless search must be strictly tied to and justified by the circumstances which rendered its justification permissible, and since it was the rule that the justification of a search of the arrestee was to prevent destruction of evidence and to prevent access to a weapon,217 it was argued to the court that a search of the person of the defendant arrested for a traffic offense, which discovered heroin in a crumpled cigarette package, was impermissible, inasmuch as there could have been no destructible evidence relating to the offense for which he was arrested and no weapon could have been concealed in the cigarette package. The Court rejected this argument, ruling that "no additional justification" is required for a custodial arrest of a suspect based on probable cause.218
216 Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 392 (1914); Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 158 (1925); Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, 30 (1925).
217 Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 (1968); Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 762, 763 (1969).
218 United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 235 (1973). See also id. at 237-38 (Justice Powell concurring). The Court applied the same rule in Gustafson v. Florida, 414 U.S. 260 (1973), involving a search of a motorist's person following his custodial arrest for an offense for which a citation would normally have issued. Unlike the situation in Robinson, police regulations did not require the Gustafson officer to take the suspect into custody, nor did a departmental policy guide the officer as to when to conduct a full search. The Court found these differences inconsequential, and left for another day the problem of pretextual arrests in order to obtain basis to search. Soon thereafter, the Court upheld conduct of a similar search at the place of detention, even after a time lapse between the arrest and search. United States v. Edwards, 415 U.S. 800 (1974).
However, the Justices have long found themselves embroiled in argument about the scope of the search incident to arrest as it extends beyond the person to the area in which the person is arrested, most commonly either his premises or his vehicle. Certain early cases went both ways on the basis of some fine distinctions,219 but in Harris v. United States,220 the Court approved a search of a four-room apartment pursuant to an arrest under warrant for one crime and in which the search turned up evidence of another crime. A year later, in Trupiano v. United States,221 a raid on a distillery resulted in the arrest of a man found on the premises and a seizure of the equipment; the Court reversed the conviction because the officers had had time to obtain a search warrant and had not done so. "A search or seizure without a warrant as an incident to a lawful arrest has always been considered to be a strictly limited right. It grows out of the inherent necessities of the situation at the time of the arrest. But there must be something more in the way of necessity than merely a lawful arrest."222 This decision was overruled in United States v. Rabinowitz,223 in which officers arrested defendant in his one-room office pursuant to an arrest warrant and proceeded to search the room completely. The Court observed that the issue was not whether the officers had the time and opportunity to obtain a search warrant but whether the search incident to arrest was reasonable. Though Rabinowitz referred to searches of the area within the arrestee's "immediate control,"224 it provided no standard by which this area was to be determined, and extensive searches were permitted under the rule.225
219 Compare Marron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192 (1927), with Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 344 (1931), and United States v. Lefkowitz, 285 U.S. 452 (1932).
220 331 U.S. 145 (1947).
221 334 U.S. 699 (1948).
222 Id. at 708.
223 339 U.S. 56 (1950).
224 Id. at 64.
225 Cf. Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 764-65 & n.10 (1969). But in Kremen v. United States, 353 U.S. 346 (1957), the Court held that the seizure of the e
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