(04/23/2009)
Police can no longer shift the reason for stopping an individual in a car to a secondary reason in order to automatically search the car.

The US Supreme Court has put limits on police with car searches.

In a 5-4 decision this week, the justices set aside a 1981 opinion that had given police broad authority to search cars whenever they made an arrest.

The high court ruled that police can search cars only if weapons are in reach of suspects, or if the car contains evidence related to the arrest.

If a person was being arrested for a drug crime, the car could be searched for drugs, said the court.

Justice John Paul Stevens, speaking for the court, said, merely arresting the driver does "not provide entitlement to search the vehicle without a warrant."

The Court said past rulings gave police too much leeway to search cars even when there was no threat to the safety of the officer.

The case came from a situation when Rodney Gant was arrested in Arizona for driving with a suspended license.

His car was parked in his driveway and officers handcuffed Gant and put him in a patrol car.

They then found a gun and cocaine in a jacket in the back seat.

He was convicted on drug charges.


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