Question: Police officers arrested Rodney Gant for driving with a suspended
Police officers arrested Rodney Gant for driving with a suspended license. After they handcuffed him and locked him in the back of a patrol car, the officers searched his car and discovered cocaine in the pocket of a jacket on the backseat. Gant was charged with possession of a narcotic drug for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia (the plastic bag in which the cocaine was found). Gant moved to suppress the evidence seized from his car on the ground that the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. The state resisted Gant's motion by arguing that the search of the car was constitutionally valid pursuant to U.S. Supreme Court decisions allowing a warrantless search incident to arrest and a warrantless search of an arrestee's vehicle if the search was contemporaneous with the arrest. Gant argued that the search of his vehicle should be held a violation of the Fourth Amendment because he posed no threat to the officers after he was handcuffed in the patrol car and because he was arrested for a traffic offense for which no evidence could be found in his vehicle. An Arizona trial court held that the search of the car did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the court denied Gant's suppression motion. The case proceeded to trial, and a jury convicted Gant. He was sentenced to prison. After protracted state-court proceedings, Arizona's highest court concluded that Gant's conviction could not stand because the search of his car was unreasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide the case. How did the Supreme Court rule regarding the search of Gant's car? Did the search violate the Fourth Amendment?
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