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Unpublished Paper
Arizona v. Gant: Decoding the Meaning of Reasonable Belief
ExpressO (2011)
  • Geoffrey S. Corn, South Texas College of Law

This article addresses the uncertainty created by the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Gant as to when police may search an automobile after the recent arrestee is secured and no longer able to access the vehicle. In Gant, the Court authorized such a search whenever the police have ‘reasonable belief’ evidence related to the crime of arrest may be in the automobile. However, the Court did not define the meaning of reasonable belief. This has led to various lower court interpretations, ranging from reasonable suspicion to probable cuase.

This article first explains why treating reasonable belief as synonymous with either of these established standards is inconsistent with existing search jurisprudence. It then probes the origin of this reasonable belief concept, and explains that this origin indicates that reasonable belief is in effect a procedural tether linking the probable cause for arrest to an expanded Chimel search incident to arrest. The article then discusses how this new justification for the search of an automobile following the arrest of an occupant or recent occupant accrues to the benefit of the police and to the public.

  • Fourth Amendment,
  • Search Incident to Arrest,
  • Automobile Search,
  • Reasonable Belief,
  • Search and Seizure
Publication Date
September 8, 2011
Citation Information
Geoffrey S. Corn. "Arizona v. Gant: Decoding the Meaning of Reasonable Belief" ExpressO (2011)
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