Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gant Has No Application Where PC Exists to Search Car Anyway

US v. Baker: Baker was driving a car in which Brown was a passenger.  The car was pulled over and Baker was arrested on an "outstanding federal arrest warrant."  With Baker secure, the officer "turned his attention to Brown" who was eventually searched.  The search uncovered a gun, drugs, cash, and a small set of digital scales.  After Brown, too, was arrested, the officer search the car and recovered more drugs and another gun.  Baker was convicted at trial of various gun and drug offenses.  He later filed a 2255 motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel due to his attorney's failure to argue that the search of the car was unconstitutional under Arizona v. Gant, which was decided while his direct appeal was pending.  The district court denied Baker's motion.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit granted Baker's request for a certificate of appealability, but ultimately agreed with the district court that the 2255 motion should be denied.  The court noted that, whatever change in the law Gant wrought, it did not change the basic principle that a vehicle can be searched without a warrant so long as probable cause exists.  The court concluded that, once the evidence was recovered from Brown, there was probable cause to support a search of the car.  Since Gant wasn't applicable to the situation, Baker's counsel did not render ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to raise it on appeal.

NOTE: This case was decided on June 13, 2013.

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