Q01 Q01 Q01
On January 9, 2007, two Springfield, Missouri, Police Department officers made a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Claude X. The purpose of the stop was to arrest X's passenger, Melissa Owen, who had a pending warrant for checkkiting. Once the officers made visual contact with Owen, the officers stopped X's car and instructed Owen to get out of the car. Ms. Owen did not bring her belongings with her when she got out of the car. One of the officers called dispatch to verify Owen's warrant and requested backup from a K-9 officer. Another officer arrived at the scene with his service dog, Marko. X was told to get out of the car so that it could be searched. X did get out of the car but then also locked it and refused to allow the officers to search. X was handcuffed for obstruction and the officers took away his keys to the car.
At that time, Marko searched (sniffed) the exterior of X's car. Marko alerted to the car's rear bumper. The officers began to search the trunk of the vehicle and found containers with drugs in them along with a weighing scale. X's lawyer moved to have the evidence excluded because the drugs were found without a warrant. Should the judge exclude the evidence or is it admissible Be sure to refer to the Arizona v. Gant case on p. 5 in developing your answer and explaining why. [U.S. v. Claude X, 648 F.3d 599 (8th Cir.)]
FACTS : Rodney Gant was arrested for driving with a suspended license and handcuffed in the back seat of the squad car of the arresting officers. After handcuffing Mr. Gant, the arresting officers searched his car and found cocaine in the pocket of a jacket lying on the back seat of Gant's vehicle. Mr. Gant was charged with possession of cocaine (as well as driving with a suspended license).
Mr. Gant's lawyer challenged the search of his client's vehicle on the grounds that there were not exigent circumstances. That is, locked in and handcuffed as he was, there was no emergency or reason to believe that Mr. Gant would spring into action and hide, destroy, or swallow the cocaine. As a result, his lawyer argued that the officers needed a warrant. Without the warrant, his lawyer argued, the cocaine could not be used as evidence in the case.
The cocaine evidence was admitted and Mr. Gant was convicted and appealed. The Court of Appeals of Arizona reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted Arizona's petition for certiorari, and subsequently vacated and remanded. The Court of Appeals of Arizona remanded for evidentiary hearing on the legality of the warrantless search. On remand, the trial court found no violation. Defendant appealed again. The Court of Appeals of Arizona reversed the decision and the Supreme Court of Arizona affirmed that reversal. Arizona appealed.
DECISION : The court held that the officers needed to impound the vehicle and obtain a warrant in order to search it. Police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle after such an arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the person arrested might somehow access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest, which, in this case, was a suspended license. Without a warrant to search the vehicle while its owner was handcuffed, the cocaine that was found was not admissible for purposes of prosecuting Mr. Gant on the cocaine charges. Without the cocaine evidence, unless Mr. Gant confesses, that charge had to be dropped. Searches require warrants or a valid exception to the privacy provided under the Fourth Amendment. Affirmed. [ Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009) ]