A car is subject to a search incident, even when the suspect is stopped as a pedestrian
This entry follows up on my April 24-26 blog entries on searches. Sadly, in 2004, the Supreme Court held that police may search cars incident to arrest even when the suspect has already parked and left the car before police have an opportunity to stop the suspect (in this instance, the defendant was found with drugs after being approached for having had improper license tags). Thornton v. U.S., 541 U.S. 615 (2004).
The four-justice Thornton plurality, joined for the most part by Justice O’Connor as a fifth vote, found it more important to give police a bright-line search rule (to be able to search incident to arrest) rather than to honor the Fourth Amendment. Jon Katz.