Washington Law Review


Jacob R. Brown


In Arizona v. Gant, the United States Supreme Court held that the search of a vehicle incident to arrest is permissible in only two situations: (1) when the arrestee is unsecured and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment; or (2) when it is reasonable to believe that evidence relevant to the crime of arrest may be found in the vehicle. Because Gant expressed a standard more protective than that established by the Washington State Supreme Court, Gant induced a state of confusion in Washington, where it has long been maintained that article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution offers broader protections than those available under the Fourth Amendment. Since Gant, the Court has twice attempted to redefine the search of a vehicle incident to arrest under article I, section 7. In State v. Patton, and subsequently in State v. Valdez, the Washington State Supreme Court adopted a standard closely resembling the first Gant prong. However, neither decision expressly adopted or rejected the second. Because the second prong is supported by historical Washington case law, the Washington State Supreme Court should adopt a modified version of the Gant rule, with an added proscription on the opening of any locked containers located during the search. Such a modification would satisfy the heightened privacy protections of article I, section 7.

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