Criminal Law and Procedure -- Fourth Amendment -- Vehicular Searches -- Thornton v. United States, 124 S.Ct. 2127 (2004)
9 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2013
Date Written: November 1, 2004
The Fourth Amendment generally requires law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before conducting a search or seizure. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has created many exceptions to the warrant requirement. In Chimel v. California, the Court permitted a warrantless search of an arrestee and the immediate area surrounding him, but denied officers the right to search the entire home incident to the arrest. In New York v. Belton, the Court extended Chimel to create a bright-line rule enabling officers to search the entire passenger compartment of a car following the arrest of its occupant. Last Term, in Thornton v. United States, the Court expanded Belton's rule to allow officers who initiate contact with an arrestee after he exits a vehicle to search the automobile. The Court's decision in Thornton failed to address the unsound bases of Chimel and Belton and created new ambiguities for lower courts and law enforcement officers.
Keywords: Fourth Amendment, search incident to arrest, vehicular search, search warrant, search and seizure, Thornton v. United States, New York v. Belton, Chimel v. California
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