Wreck on the highway: The Supreme Court, search incident to arrest, the good faith exception, and Davis v. United States


In 1981, the Supreme Court held that when a police officer arrests the occupant of an automobile, the officer may search the automobile's passenger compartment incident to the arrest, and this search may take place even after the suspect has been handcuffed and secured in a police vehicle. This decision created a bright-line rule for searches incident to arrest in automobiles and was easy to apply; it lacked, however, any logical connection to the rationale for the original search incident exception, since it was clearly impossible for an arrested suspect to gain access to the vehicle compartment once he was secured in a police vehicle. In 2009, the Supreme Court held that the so-called Belton rule did not apply when the person arrested has been removed from the vehicle and secured. In 2011, the Supreme Court applied the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule to a search incident of an automobile that took place prior to Gant. Davis is the latest in a series of decisions weakening the protections of the exclusionary rule in the interests of efficient police work.


Criminology and Criminal Justice

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exclusionary rule, good faith exception, police, search incident, Supreme Court

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Journal Title

Criminal Justice Studies