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WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court affirmed Wednesday that police have the power to conduct searches and seize evidence, even when done during an arrest that turns out to have violated state law.
"We reaffirm against a novel challenge what we have signaled for half a century," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.
Scalia said that when officers have probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest and to search the suspect in order to safeguard evidence and ensure their own safety.
On February 20, 2003, two City of Portsmouth detectives,
responding to a radio message that a motorist was
operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license, stopped
a vehicle being driven by the defendant, David Lee Moore.
The officers ascertained that Moore was in fact operating
on a suspended license. Although the offense is a Class 1
misdemeanor, Code § 46.2-301(C), the officers did not issue
Moore a summons but arrested him, handcuffed him, and
placed him in a police vehicle. They gave him the Miranda
warnings and secured his signature on a consent to
search his room at the hotel where he was staying. They
then took him to the hotel room
Because of a “miscommunication” between the officers,
they did not search Moore at the time he was arrested.
Upon reaching his hotel room, they searched his
person and found approximately 16 grams of crack coc aine
in his jacket pocket and $516.00 in cash in his pants
pocket. He admitted the coc aine was his.
Moore was convicted on a drug charge and sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.