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CAN A VEHICLE BE SEARCHED IF A PASSENGER IS ARRESTED?

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A Michigan Court of Appeals case decided in February 2008 has established the rule that a vehicle may be searched incident to an arrest even if only a passenger is arrested and not the driver. In People v Mungo the Court ruled that an officer may search a vehicle incident to an arrest. even if there is no reason to believe that the driver has done anything wrong.

The Court, relying on the U. S. Supreme Court case of New York v Belton found significant that the U.S. Supreme Court did not limit it’s decision to the arrest of the driver. The U.S. Supreme Court did say that “a lawful custodial arrest creates a situation which justifies the contemporaneous search without a warrant of the person arrested and of the immediately surrounding area.”

The Court of Appeals has clarified what has been a gray area of the search incident law, and has made it clear that if a passenger is arrested and in custody then the vehicle can be searched.

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