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Name: Davis v. United States
Case #: 09-11328
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/16/2011
Subsequent History: 131 S.Ct. 2419; 180 L.Ed.2d 285

Searches conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent are not subject to the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule. The majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito addresses the scope of the exclusionary rule. Chimel v. California (1969) 395 U.S. 752, 763 allowed an arresting officer to conduct a warrantless search of the arrestee and the area only within his “immediate control.” New York v. Belton (1981) 453 U.S. 454, 459-460 upheld the search of an automobile as reasonably incident to the arrest of the occupants of the car who were handcuffed and detained along the side of the thruway. Belton became the talisman to uphold any automobile search incident to arrest. Then Arizona v. Gant (2008) 556 U.S. ___, slip opn. 10 held that the authority of Belton was limited to searches that were contemporaneous with arrest if: 1) the arrestee is within reaching distance of the vehicle during the search; or, 2) the police have reason to believe that the vehicle contains evidence relevant to the crime of arrest. Davis was arrested before the Gant decision but his suppression motion was litigated post-Gant. The issue was whether the constitutionality of the search should be considered under Belton or Gant. Suppression of the fruit of the Belton-style search was not required in this case. “[T]he harsh sanction of exclusion ‘should not be applied to deter objectively reasonable law enforcement activity’ . . . in reasonable reliance on binding precedent . . . .” Justice Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Ginsburg.