Officers developed probable cause the defendant was transporting a controlled substance in a footlocker. They placed him under arrest and seized the footlocker. The footlocker remained under the exclusive control of the officers at all times. The agents did not have any reason to believe that the footlocker contained explosives or other inherently dangerous items or that it contained evidence that would lose its evidentiary value unless the footlocker was opened immediately. An hour and a half after the men were arrested, the officers opened the footlocker without a search warrant or consent. Large amounts of marijuana were found in the footlocker.
Whether a search incident to an arrest is reasonable significantly after the arrest?
No. Searches incident to arrest must occur at about the same time as the arrest.
The search cannot be justified as a search incident to an arrest if the search is remote in time or place from the arrest. When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the government to conduct a prompt, warrantless search of the arrestee’s person and the area in which the arrestee might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence. However, warrantless searches of a footlocker or luggage seized at the time of an arrest cannot be justified as incident to that arrest if the search is remote in either time or place from that arrest or no exigency exists. Here, there were no exigent circumstances.
433 U.S. 1, 97 S. Ct. 2476 (1977)