In New York v. Belton (1981), the Supreme Court decided that a bright-line rule about the reasonableness of police searches of automobiles incident to the arrest of an occupant was necessary to serve the interests of protecting officer safety and preventing the destruction of potential evidence. The Court announced that police, after arresting a subject could -- even where the subject was securely handcuffed in the back of an officer's car -- search through the vehicle the subject had been driving or riding in and any compartments in that vehicle (except for the trunk) without obtaining a warrant.
On Monday, the Court announced that it was granting certiorari to hear Arizona v. Gant. In Gant, the Arizona Supreme Court held that officers who want to search a vehicle incident to an arrest without a warrant must have particular reasons to fear that the arrested subject still poses a threat to the safety of the officers or to the existence of potential evidence. The case presents the Court with an opportunity to either reinforce or reconsider the 27 year-old Belton rule, and their choice may well have implications for the other bright-line rules that form a major part of modern U.S. criminal procedure jurisprudence. The case will be heard next term. More here, courtesy of SCOTUSblog.
On another note, I've been working on a lengthy piece on Danforth v. Minnesota, a case that came down last Wednesday that dealt with some very interesting questions about the nature of constitutional rules. It will probably be up tomorrow.
Correction: Fixed some embarrassing spelling and grammar mistakes.