The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Gant fundamentally altered the law governing police searches of vehicles incident to the arrest of a vehicle occupant. To date, there has been no empirical examination of Gant’s impact on line officers. The present study does so using data from a survey of police officers that assessed their ability to apply Gant. Although 93 percent of the officers had been taught Gant and 77 percent had received training within the twelve months prior to completing the survey, 67 percent incorrectly applied Belton, rather than Gant. Moreover, nearly half of the sample were missing constitutionally permissible opportunities to search the vehicle under either of Gant’s two prongs. Concerningly, officers who had received recent training on vehicle searches were significantly less likely to identify correct search protocols under Gant’s evidence prong. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Police Officers’ Knowledge of Gant
Ph.D. student, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University. Mr. Purdon earned an M.S. in Criminal Justice from Kennesaw State University. His research is focused on police and technology, constitutional criminal procedures, and sociology of law.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Dr. Xia Wang, who helped us with the statistical analyses reported in this article, and Mr. Daniel Ozment, MSCJ Program graduate, for his research assistance related to the current study.
Professor and Associate Director, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University. Affiliate Professor of Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University. Dr. Fradella earned a master’s in forensic science and a J.D. from The George Washington University in 1993 and a Ph.D. in justice studies from Arizona State University in 1997. His research interests include substantive, procedural, and evidentiary criminal law; the dynamics of legal decision-making; and the nature, sources, and consequences of variations and changes in legal institutions or processes.
Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of the Master of Science of Criminal Justice (MSCJ) Program, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Kennesaw State University. Professor Totten earned a J.D. in 2000 and an LL.M. in 2002 from Georgetown University Law Center. His research interests span criminal law and procedure, international crime, and criminal law and society with foci on courts/jurisprudence and police attitudes using social science methodologies.
Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Kennesaw State University. Dr. Lee earned a Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1998. His research interests include cybercrime, comparative juvenile delinquency, and the intersection of law and policy as they relate to police misconduct.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
James A. Purdon, Henry F. Fradella, Christopher D. Totten, Gang Lee; Police Officers’ Knowledge of Gant. New Criminal Law Review 1 October 2021; 24 (4): 468–497. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nclr.2021.24.4.468
Download citation file: