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Preston v. United States


The defendant, along with two others, was arrested while sitting in a parked vehicle. He was searched for weapons and taken to the police station. The vehicle, which was not searched at the time of the arrest, was towed to a garage. Shortly after the defendant had been booked at the police station, officers went to the garage, without a warrant, to search the car. They found evidence indicating that the defendant and his companions were preparing for a robbery. All three individuals were convicted of conspiracy to rob a bank, largely on evidence obtained from the search of the vehicle


Whether the search of the vehicle at the garage was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment as a “search incident to arrest?”


No. The evidence obtained from the car was inadmissible because the warrantless search was too remote in time or place to be treated as incidental to the arrest.


The Fourth Amendment permits searches that are reasonable. “When a person is lawfully arrested, the police have the right, without a warrant, to make a contemporaneous search of the person of the accused for weapons or for the fruits of or implements used to commit the crime. This rule is justified by the need to seize weapons and other things that might be used to effect an arrest, as well as by the need to prevent the destruction of evidence of the crime.

However, these justifications are absent where a search is remote in time or place from the arrest. Once a defendant is under arrest and in custody, then a search made at another place, without a warrant, is simply not incident to the arrest (underline added).”


376 U.S. 364, 84 S. Ct. 881 (1964)

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