California Search Incident to Arrest Case Law

In Arizona v. Gant (2009) 556 U.S. 332, the defendant was arrested for driving on a suspended license, handcuffed, and locked in a patrol car before officers searched his car and found cocaine in a jacket pocket. (Ibid.) The Supreme Court found the search was not reasonable. (Id. at p. 333.) The Gant court held that law enforcement may search a vehicle incident to an occupant's arrest in two circumstances: (1) when the arrestee is unsecured and has access to the passenger compartment or (2) when evidence relevant to the crime might reasonably be found in the vehicle. (Id. at p. 343; People v. Osborne (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 1052, 1065.) In People v. Nottoli (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 531, the Court considered the legality of the search of a car driven by defendants who were arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance, and for driving with an expired license. (Id. at p. 540.) The search revealed drug paraphernalia, a firearm and a cell phone that had a picture of the defendant posing with firearms. (Id. at p. 541.) In finding the search lawful as incident to an arrest, this court stated that in Gant, "the court explicitly held that a vehicular search incident to arrest is valid when 'it is reasonable to believe that evidence of the offense of arrest might be found in the vehicle' or when 'it is "reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle" .'" (Id at p. 551.) Moreover, as the Court stated in Nottoli, "In South Dakota v. Opperman (1976) 428 U.S. 364, the Supreme Court held that 'a routine inventory search of an automobile lawfully impounded by police for violations of municipal parking ordinances,' consistent with 'standard police procedures,' was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court has made clear that 'reasonable police regulations relating to inventory procedures administered in good faith satisfy the Fourth Amendment, even though courts might as a matter of hindsight be able to devise equally reasonable rules requiring a different procedure.' " (Nottoli, supra, 199 Cal.App.4th at pp. 545-546.)