Crawford v. State
In Crawford v. State, 138 P.3d 254, 259 (Alaska 2006) the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the search of a vehicle's unlocked center console incident to the arrest of the driver.
The court held that the search was authorized because an unlocked center console is an item reasonably associated with the driver's person and because the search was reasonably contemporaneous with the driver's arrest.
The court observed that a center console "'generally served the same function as clothing pockets'" because, "like a pocket, the center console is commonly used to hold money, a cellular telephone, and personal hygiene items."
The court explained that:
"unlike a briefcase, which can be placed in the trunk or otherwise made inaccessible to the driver, the center console is permanently located directly next to the driver. Unless the console is locked, we can see no reason why a driver would have a greater expectation of privacy in the center console than in his or her purse or wallet."
The Alaska Supreme Court held that the center console of a motor vehicle is a container "immediately associated" with the person and may be searched incident to arrest.
The court reasoned that a center console often serves the same function as a pocket -- like a pocket, it "is commonly used to hold money, a cellular telephone, and personal hygiene items."
The court explained that a suspect who has been lawfully arrested has a diminished expectation of privacy, such that searching a wallet, purse, pocket, or other container "immediately associated" with the person is reasonable incident to that arrest.
The court concluded that this holding would not greatly expand the search incident to arrest exception, because even when a container is "immediately associated" with an arrestee, the police must still obtain a warrant if the container was not within the suspect's immediate control at the time of the arrest.