October 22, 2009 in City

Wash. court reins in warrantless car searches

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The state Supreme Court says police were wrong to search a man’s car after arresting him at home, even though he was standing next to the car with his head ducked in the window when the authorities arrived.

Thursday’s unanimous decision tightens the rules for police searches of a car, when officers don’t have a warrant.

Officers making an arrest can search the open areas of a person’s car without a warrant. But only if there’s an immediate concern for an officer’s safety, or a worry that the person will destroy evidence of the crime at hand.

The arrested person and the crime in question also must have some close connection with the car.

The new ruling says past court decisions have stretched warrantless car searches too far.

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