|Thornton v. United States|
|Argued March 31, 2004|
Decided May 24, 2004
|Full case name||Marcus Thornton, Petitioner v. United States|
|Citations||541 U.S. 615 (more)|
|Prior||325 F.3d 189 (4th Cir. 2003); cert. granted, 540 U.S. 980 (2003).|
|Belton governs even when an officer does not make contact until the person arrested has left the vehicle.|
|Plurality||Rehnquist, joined by Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer|
|Concurrence||Scalia, joined by Ginsburg|
|Dissent||Stevens, joined by Souter|
|U.S. Const. amend. IV|
Thornton v. United States, 541 U.S. 615 (2004), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that when a police officer makes a lawful custodial arrest of an automobile's occupant, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows the officer to search the vehicle's passenger compartment as a contemporaneous incident of arrest. Thornton extended New York v. Belton, ruling that it governs even when an officer does not make contact until the person arrested has left the vehicle. Thornton also suggests a separate justification for an evidentiary search "when it is reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle."
Thornton and Belton were distinguished by Arizona v. Gant, which restricted searches incident to arrest to circumstance where: 1) it is reasonable to believe that the arrested individual might access the vehicle at the time of the search; or 2) it is reasonable to believe that arrested individual's vehicle contains evidence of the offense that led to the arrest; or 3) the officer has probable cause to believe that there may be evidence of a crime concealed within the vehicle. Thus, while Arizona v. Gant modifies the search incident to arrest doctrine, it also leaves intact certain legal justifications for warrantless searches set forth in Chimel v. California, Thornton, and United States v. Ross.
- Ball, Dane C. (2005). "Thornton v. United States: Blurring Belton′s Bright Line Rule Spells Disaster for Lower Courts and the Fourth Amendment". Southwestern University Law Review. 35: 1. ISSN 0886-3296.
- Dery, G.; Hernandez, M. J. (2005). "Turning a Government Search into a Permanent Power: Thornton v. United States and the 'Progressive Distortion' of Search Incident to Arrest". William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal. 14 (2): 677–710. ISSN 1065-8254.
- Jones, C. J. (2006). "Thornton v. United States: Expanding the Scope of Search Incident to Arrest on America's Roadways". American Journal of Trial Advocacy. 30: 627. ISSN 0160-0281.
- Lewis, J. (2004). "To Serve and Protect: Thornton v. United States and the Newly Anemic Fourth Amendment". Mercer Law Review. 56: 1471. ISSN 0025-987X.
- Text of Thornton v. United States, 541 U.S. 615 (2004) is available from: Cornell CourtListener Findlaw Google Scholar Justia Library of Congress Oyez (oral argument audio)
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