OCTOBER TERM, 2008
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ARIZONA v. GANT
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA
No. 07–542. Argued October 7, 2008—Decided April 21, 2009
Respondent Gant was arrested for driving on a suspended license,
handcuffed, and locked in a patrol car before officers searched his car
and found cocaine in a jacket pocket. The Arizona trial court denied
his motion to suppress the evidence, and he was convicted of drug of-
fenses. Reversing, the State Supreme Court distinguished New York
v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454—which held that police may search the pas-
senger compartment of a vehicle and any containers therein as a con-
temporaneous incident of a recent occupant’s lawful arrest—on the
ground that it concerned the scope of a search incident to arrest but
did not answer the question whether officers may conduct such a
search once the scene has been secured. Because Chimel v. Califor-
nia, 395 U. S. 752, requires that a search incident to arrest be justi-
fied by either the interest in officer safety or the interest in preserv-
ing evidence and the circumstances of Gant’s arrest implicated
neither of those interests, the State Supreme Court found the search
Held: Police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle inci-
dent to a recent occupant’s arrest only if it is reasonable to believe
that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or
that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. Pp. 5–18.
(a) Warrantless searches “are per se unreasonable,” “subject only to
a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.