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United States v. Edwards


Shortly after 11 p.m. the defendant was lawfully arrested and placed in jail for attempting to break into a post office. The attempted entry into the post office had been made through a window, leaving paint chips on the windowsill and wire mesh screen. Because the defendant was arrested late at night, no clothing was available to replace what he was wearing. The following morning, trousers and a shirt were purchased for him to replace the clothing he had been wearing since his arrest. The clothing removed from him contained paint chips matching samples that had been taken from the post office window. The clothing was seized and held as evidence.


Whether the clothing seized from the defendant on the morning following his arrest was obtained lawfully as a search incident to his arrest?


Yes. The delay in seizing the defendant’s clothes under the circumstances was reasonable.


One of the exceptions to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment is the warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest. There is no doubt “that clothing or other belongings may be seized upon arrival of the accused at the place of detention and later subjected to laboratory analysis or that the test results are admissible at trial. In taking the defendant’s clothing, the police did no more than take from him the effects in his immediate possession that constituted evidence of a crime.” Such action is incidental to custodial arrest. A reasonable delay [the defendant did not have replacement clothing] in conducting the search does not change the fact that the defendant was no more imposed upon than he could have been at the time and place of the arrest. “When it became apparent that the articles of clothing were evidence of the crime for which the defendant was being held, the police were entitled to take, examine, and preserve them for use as evidence, just as they are normally permitted to seize evidence of crime when it is lawfully encountered.”


415 U.S. 800, 94 S. Ct. 1234 (1974)

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