Sunday, October 23, 2011

MBE Fast Fact: Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement

It's easy to confuse a search incident to a lawful arrest with the automobile exception. Though both are exceptions to the warrant requirement, if a police officer arrests a person who happens to be in an automobile, but the officer does not have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime (in other words, the probable causes arises elsewhere), then as per the search incident to a lawful arrest, the officer can search the person, and any areas in which the person might reach to obtain weapons or destroy evidence. This would not, for example, allow a police officer to search the trunk of a car. If, on the other hand, the police do have probable cause to believe that a vehicle contains evidence of a crime, then the automobile exception applies, and the police can search the entire vehicle and any container that might reasonably contain the item for which they have probable cause to search. (This exception would, in contrast, allow the police to search the trunk of the car.)

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