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 In 1914, the Court first acknowledged in dictum “the right on the part of the Government, always recognized under English and American law, to search the person of the accused when legally arrested to discover and seize the fruits or evidences of crime.” Weeks v. United States, 232 U. S. 383, 392, 34 S. Ct. 341, 58 L. Ed. 652, T.D. 1964. Since that time, it has been well accepted that such a search constitutes an exception to the warrant requirement. Indeed, the label “exception” is something of a misnomer in this context, as warrantless searches incident to arrest occur with far greater frequency than searches conducted pursuant to a warrant. See 3 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure §5.2(b), p. 132, and n. 15 (5th ed. 2012).


Although the existence of the exception for such searches has been recognized for a century, its scope has been debated for nearly as long. See Arizona v. Gant, 556 U. S. 332, 350, 129 S. Ct. 1710, 173 L. Ed. 2d 485 (2009) (noting the exception’s “checkered history”). That debate has focused on the extent to which officers may search property found on or near the arrestee. Three ...

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