Warrant Exception: Searches Incident to a Lawful Arrest
When police perform a lawful arrest, they are allowed to search the arrestee. The permissible scope of such searches—known as searches incident to lawful arrest (“SILA”)—has been the subject of multiple Supreme Court cases. No warrant is required for a SILA.45
For a search to be justified as a SILA: (1) there must have been an arrest, (2) the arrest must have been “lawful,” and (3) the search must be “incident” to the arrest—that is, close in time and space to the arrest.
Later in the semester, we will study when arrests are permitted. For now, note that because police often need no warrant to arrest a suspect, a SILA can sometimes result from two distinct warrant exceptions. The first allows the underlying arrest, and the second allows the ensuing search.