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New York v. Belton

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 453 U.S. 454, 101 S. Ct. 2860, 69 L. Ed. 2d 768 (1981)

Brief Fact Summary. A police officer arrested four people in a speeding car. He examined passenger compartment, and found a jacket containing incriminating evidence.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. “When a policeman has made a lawful custodial arrest of the occupant of an automobile, he may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile” and that “the police may also examine the contents of any containers found within the . . . compartment.”


Facts. A New York state police officer pulled over a speeding vehicle, with four occupants, including Roger Belton ["the respondent"]. The vehicle belonged to none of the men present. The police officer smelled burnt marijuana, and saw an enveloped associated with the drug. He ordered the men out, arrested them for possession. He split them up, confiscated the drug, and searched each of them. He then searched the passenger compartment of the car, and found the respondent’s leather jacket. He found cocaine in one of the pockets.

Issue. Whether “the constitutionally permissible scope of a search incident to his arrest include the passenger compartment of the automobile in which he was riding.”

Content Type: Brief


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