Arizona v. GantLaw enforcement officers have a sworn duty to uphold the law. Decades ago, peace officers had a much easier time upholding the law and arresting bad guys. There was no formal court system in place that would challenge an officer??™s legitimacy of an arrest. It seemed very cut and dry and the adage held true, ???you do the crime-you do the time.??? In today??™s society officers continually have to reeducate themselves on the ever-changing laws that affect the way they do their job.
One particular court case has directly affected our right to privacy law that the 4th Amendment gives us, is Arizona v. Gant.HISTORYPrior to Arizona v. Gant, officers generally had the freedom, without a warrant, to search the entire passenger compartment of a vehicle a suspect was being arrested had driven or was a passenger in (Wikipedia, 2009). For instance, if an officer pulled over a vehicle to do a routine traffic stop and found that his license was revoked, he would arrest the suspect and put him in the back seat of his police car, to be transported to jail. After arresting the suspect, the officer would be allowed to go back and search the vehicle.
If the officer found anything that was illegal to possess, such as drugs or a non-registered handgun, the officer could compound the charges to be more than just a suspended license. These lawful practices came from a ruling known as New York v. Belton (Wikipedia, 2009).On August 25, 1999, the Belton decision would be challenged. Rodney J.
Gant was arrested by Tucson, Arizona police and charged with driving on a suspended driver??™s license. Officers ???arrested Gant in a friends yard after he had parked his vehicle and was walking away. Gant and all other suspects on the scene were then secured in police patrol cars. The officers then searched Gants vehicle. After finding a weapon and a bag of cocaine, they also charged him with possession of a narcotic for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia??? (Wikipedia, 2009, p. 1).Thomas Jacobs, Gants lawyer argued the case in front of the Supreme Court on October 7, 2008.
He argued, ???unreasonable expansion of a limited authority to search vehicles incident to arrest provided by the Supreme Courts 1981 decision in New York v. Belton was occurring??? (Wikipedia, 2009, p. 1). This meant officers were crossing the line, in that, they were conducting unwarranted searches of vehicles that went beyond what evidence, if any, was needed for that particular case.OUTCOMEOn April 21, 2009, the United States Supreme Court decided Arizona v. Gant. This decision added ???new limits to when and how police can search the passenger compartments of vehicles. This decision requires that police searches be either to find evidence of the crime for which the suspect is being arrested or as a quick search for weapons that the suspect could reach??? (Erowid, 2009, p.
1). This means that officers cannot justify vehicle searches on stops such as traffic stops or on stops where there is no reason to look for evidence for particular crimes, such as driving with a suspended license, child support violations, etc. This ruling still permits officers to conduct ???Terry??? type searches (Erowid, 2009, p. 1). A ???Terry??? search was a decision made by the United States Supreme Court in 1968, Terry v. Ohio(Wikipedia, n.d.).
This decision was a case in which ???held that 4th Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and searches him without probable cause to arrest, if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime??? (Wikipedia, n.d., p. 1).IMPACTArizona v. Gant has affected both law enforcement and individuals. Law enforcement officers have to redirect the way they conduct searches. They can no longer justify doing a passenger compartment search without probable cause to a vehicle that was pulled over for a minor moving violation.
However, it is important to point out that this decision does not stop probable cause searches (Erowid, 2009). For instance, if an officer is conducting traffic stops and smells the odor of marijuana in the vehicle that officer has probable cause to detain the individual and perform a search of the vehicle for drugs and/or drug paraphernalia. An additional probable cause search would be if an officer sees a drug deal happening from inside of a vehicle. The officer is practicing within the confines of the law to pull that vehicle over and perform a probable cause search.Some police officers think the Arizona v. Gant decision is ???a flawed strategy and has not made our job as police officers easier??? (Spartan Cops, 2009, p.
1). The concern of many officers is safety. One officer states, ???from a police use of force standpoint, my concern is some officers will sacrifice safety for the investigation. Arizona v. Gant allows a search if the arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment. Some officers might be willing to risk the close proximity of the suspect to the car just so they can get the search in??? (Spartan Cops, 2009, p.
1). This is critical because once the officer has jeopardized his or her safety by coming in close distance of the suspect; the officer??™s control has shifted out of his or her hands and into the suspect??™s hands. The officer is putting himself or herself in danger of being shot by the suspect if there is a weapon within reaching distance.This decision has also affected imprisoned individuals that were convicted by the old ???Belton??? ruling. Criminal defense lawyer, Mark Bennett states, ???Although it appears that the State??™s reading of Belton has been widely taught in police academies and that law enforcement officers have relied on the rule in conducting vehicle searches during the past 28 years, many of these searches were not justified by the reasons underlying the Belton exception.
Countless individuals guilty of nothing more serious than a traffic violation have had their constitutional right to the security of their private effects violated as a result??? (Bennett, 2009, p. 1). Some inmates or ex convicts that were convicted under the ???Belton??? rule have been directly affected by this ruling. Some people may think that these individuals that were convicted under this law are guilty of nothing other than a traffic violation.
However, I tend to have a different opinion. I understand the points that Mr. Bennett made in his blog but I also believe while they were originally pulled over for something as minor as a traffic violation they were also in possession of something illegal. I believe that officers have the duty to uphold the law and keep the streets and communities safe.
If the suspect was in possession of something illegal then it is better to be proactive and prevent situations from occurring than it is to be reactive and wait for the situations to happen.CONCLUSIONThe Arizona v. Gant ruling has clearly made a significant impact on law enforcement.
It is not commonplace anymore for an officer to conduct a traffic stop, handcuff the individual, put them in the back seat of a squad car, and search his or her vehicle. There continues to be change within law enforcement where officers have to be reeducated on new laws and procedures on everything from making a routine traffic stop to searches and seizures just to be sure if the case does go to court that proper procedures were followed with the suspect and that evidence was gathered and processed properly in order to obtain a possible conviction.ReferencesBennett, M. (2009, April 21, 2009). Defending People [Web log message]. Retrieved from www.blog.bennettandbennett.
comErowid, E. (2009, April 30, 2009). US Supreme Court Limits Police Searches of Vehicles (Issue Brief). Retrieved from The Vaults of EROWID: www.erowid.
orgSpartan Cops. (2009). How Arizona v. Gant affects officers. Retrieved from www.spartancops.comWikipedia.
(2009). Arizona v. Gant.
Retrieved from www.wikipedia.orgWikipedia. (n.d.
). Terry v. Ohio. Retrieved from www.wikipedia.org