Chimel v. California

395 U.S. 752, 89 S. Ct. 2034 (1969)



When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the arresting officer to search the person arrested in order to remove any weapons that could be used in order to resist arrest or effect escape. In addition, it is entirely reasonable for the arresting officer to search for and seize any evidence on the arrestee's person in order to prevent its concealment or destruction. And the area into which an arrestee might reach in order to grab a weapon or evidentiary items must be governed by a like rule. There is ample justification, therefore, for a search of the arrestee's person and the area "within his immediate control." 


Police came to petitioner's home with an arrest warrant to arrest him for an alleged burglary. When petitioner returned from work, police arrested him. Police then asked for permission to "look around." Even though petitioner objected, the officers conducted a search. They looked through the entire house and had petitioner's wife open drawers and physically remove contents of the drawers so they could view items. Police seized a number of coins and medals, among other things, that respondent State later used to convict petitioner of burglary. 


Was the warrantless search by the police lawful?




The court held that the search was "unreasonable." It found that there was no justification for searching any room other than that in which the arrest occurred. Even searching through desk drawers or other closed or concealed areas of the room where the arrest occurred was not appropriate. Extending the search to the entire house was not proper, and the court overturned the conviction.

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