Police officers’ knowledge of Gant
Sociology and Criminal Justice
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.
New Criminal Law Review
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)