Thornton v. United States
541 U.S. 615 (2004)

Annotate this Case

541 U. S. ____ (2004)
541 U. S. ____ (2004)
541 U. S. ____ (2004)
NO. 03-5165


on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit

[May 24, 2004]

   Justice O’Connor, concurring in part.

   I join all but footnote 4 of the Court’s opinion. Although the opinion is a logical extension of the holding of New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454 (1981), I write separately to express my dissatisfaction with the state of the law in this area. As Justice Scalia forcefully argues, post, p. 2-5 (opinion concurring in judgment), lower court decisions seem now to treat the ability to search a vehicle incident to the arrest of a recent occupant as a police entitlement rather than as an exception justified by the twin rationales of Chimel v. California, 395 U. S. 752 (1969). That erosion is a direct consequence of Belton’s shaky foundation. While the approach Justice Scalia proposes appears to be built on firmer ground, I am reluctant to adopt it in the context of a case in which neither the Government nor the petitioner has had a chance to speak to its merit.

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