Sunday, November 17, 2013

United States v. Davis case brief

United States v. Davis case brief summary
569 F.3d 813 (2009)

Defendant appealed a judgment of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri convicting him upon his guilty plea to possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, a violation of 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 922(g)(1), 922(g)(3), and 924(a)(2). Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress, arguing that the firearm was seized pursuant to a warrantless search of his vehicle in violation of the Fourth Amendment.


  • On appeal, the court held that under Gant, the search was a lawful search incident to arrest. 
  • At the time of the search, the officer had already discovered marijuana in defendant's pocket and placed defendant in custody. 
  • The odor of marijuana was wafting from the car. 
  • Empty beer bottles lay strewn in the back seat. 
  • Three passengers, all of whom had been drinking, were not in secure custody and outnumbered the two officers at the scene. 
  • Each of the facts comported with Gant's within-reach requirement and its two underlying rationales as articulated in Chimel, ensuring officer safety and protecting perishable evidence. 
  • Although defendant had been detained, three unsecured and intoxicated passengers were standing around a vehicle redolent of recently smoked marijuana. 
  • The facts were textbook examples of the safety and evidentiary justifications underlying Chimel's reaching-distance rule. 
  • The search was also permissible under the "automobile exception" to the warrant requirement because any doubt about whether the smell of smoldering cannabis constituted probable cause to search the vehicle was obviated by the discovery of a bag of marijuana in defendant's pocket.

The court affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress.

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