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Car search out under Gant

How fast is the turnaround in car-search law? Just this fast, as the 4th Circuit yesterday made a U-turn and vacated a cocaine conviction out of Roanoke federal court.

In an unpublished opinion in U.S. v. Majette, the 4th Circuit said an “evidence-producing automobile search incident to the arrest of Tony Majette for a driving offense turns out to be unlawful under the Supreme Court’s new opinion in Arizona v. Gant,” released April 21 by the high court.

Majette was stopped by a Blacksburg police officer June 5, 2006, because his Cadillac had an “impermissibly dark window tint.” Majette admitted to a suspended driver’s license and a record check showed numerous traffic infractions. The officer took Majette into custody and found two baggies of cocaine base in the car.

The 4th Circuit panel said the facts in Majette’s case were “strikingly similar” to Gant. The Cadillac’s passenger compartment was not within Majette’s reach at the time of the search, and police would not have had a reasonable basis to believe they would find evidence of Majette’s license suspension – the offense of arrest – within that space.

Under Gant, the search was unreasonable and the drugs and scales should be suppressed.
By Deborah Elkins

2 comments

  1. I don’t see the similarity in Gant.. In the Gant case, Gant got out of his car, closed the car door and walked a considerable distance away from the car before contact by police was made. The Officers should not have searched the car Unless there is Probable Cause. I can clearly understand why the Supreme Court found that it was unlawful. However in Majette, the suspect was seated in his car as when he was stopped by Police. So we see that the tools that Police have on their belt have become restricted. There are Motor Vehicle Exceptions and dogs..thankfully. Still having to produce Probable cause is a good thing. The exceptions should be re-visited by State.. It would be a matter of time before the bad guys realize if they just took a lesson in Driver’s Ed.. there would be no need to be subject of a search of their vehicle. Majette is a very profound decision. More so then Gant which opened the door of a new attitude towards Policing.

  2. I don’t see the similarity in Gant.. In the Gant case, Gant got out of his car, closed the car door and walked a considerable distance away from the car before contact by police was made. The Officers should not have searched the car Unless there is Probable Cause. I can clearly understand why the Supreme Court found that it was unlawful. However in Majette, the suspect was seated in his car as when he was stopped by Police. So we see that the tools that Police have on their belt have become restricted. There are Motor Vehicle Exceptions and dogs..thankfully. Still having to produce Probable cause is a good thing. The exceptions should be re-visited by State.. It would be a matter of time before the bad guys realize if they just took a lesson in Driver’s Ed.. there would be no need to be subject of a search of their vehicle. Majette is a very profound decision. More so then Gant which opened the door of a new attitude towards Policing.

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