Arrest After the Search of a Vehicle
False Arrest and Probable Cause
Arizona v. Gant
U.S. Supreme Court–April 21, 2009
On April 21, 2009. the United States Supreme Court changed the rules which determine if there was “probable cause” sufficient to create a legal, as opposed to a “false”, arrest.
For all those drivers, or other vehicle occupants, that are stopped in vehicles for a traffic infraction, the rule for the past 28 years has allowed a police officer to search the car involved. If the officer found evidence of a totally unrelated crime, such as an illegal drug or unlicensed weapon, then an arrest based on that evidence in the car would be legal.
That rule has now been tightened with Arizona vs Gant.
Under the new rules in Arizona vs Gant, a vehicle search will only be permitted under two conditions: if the person being arrested can reach into the car to grab a weapon or tamper with evidence the police offer reasonably believes to be in the car or, the police officer believes there is evidence in the car that is directly relevant to the crime for which the occupant was arrested . Just arresting an occupant of a vehicle, by itself, is no longer grounds to permit a police search of a vehicle.
If, for example, a marijuana cigarette is found when the police search a vehicle after having stopped the vehicle because of an illegal turn, an arrest based on that marijuana cigarette would no longer be deemed to be based on “probable cause” and the arrest based on the marijuana cigarette would not be legal.
It is, of course,more important than ever to discuss possibilities of a “false arrest” with competent legal counsel.