Although the opinion was criticized for a blatant departure from stare decisis, see id. (Alito, J., dissenting) (arguing that, although stare decisis is not an "'inexorable command' . . . constitutional precedent should be followed unless there is a 'special justification' for its abandonment."), Justice Stevens noted in dictum that "[b]lind adherence to [a misreading of Belton] would authorize myriad unconstitutional searches."
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Supreme Court Limits "SIVA" Doctrine
The Supreme Court today in Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. ____ (2009), limited its holding in New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 (1981), which held in part that officers--in effectuating a valid arrest--may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle in which the suspect was a recent occupant. In Gant, a suspect was arrested for driving with a suspended license, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a squad car before officers "discovered cocaine in the pocket of his jacket on the backseat [of his car]." See Gant, 556 U.S. at 1-2. The Court, via Justice Stevens, held that Belton (if not overruled) no longer "authorize[s] a vehicle search incident to a recent occupant's arrest after the arrestee has been secured and cannot access the interior of the vehicle." Id. at 3-4.