Monday, May 08, 2006

Search Incident to Arrest -- Search of a Bicycle, That Is.

Over at Decision of the Day, there was a short write up on Thursday last week about a pretty interesting case decided by the Fourth Circuit last week. The case concerns application of the "search incident to arrest" exception to the Fourth Amendment, but applied to searching a bicycle.

The exception is often used to allow searches of automobiles or homes when suspects are lawfully arrested. In this case, however, officers received a tip about a suspect selling drugs from a bicycle. When they arrested him, they found no drugs on his person. After the suspect was arrested, officers searched and found crack inside the handlebars of his bicycle.

The trial court granted a motion to suppress. The trial court concluded that "opening" the handlebars of the bicycle was comparable to opening the trunk of a car, which exceeds the permissible scope of a search incident to arrest. On appeal, however, the Fourth Circuit reversed. The Fourth Circuit held that the permissible scope of a search incident to arrest is allowable for areas within the immediate control of the suspect, where the suspect might be hiding a weapon that could be used against law enforcement officers. The Fourth Circuit held that the handlebars were within that scope, and that the search was therefore lawful.

**UPDATE: also picked up on this. And there's a little bit of discussion going on in the comments, too.


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