Thursday, April 3, 1997

US Supreme Court US v. Edwards 73-88

Decided March 26, 1974

   Edwards was arrested for attempting to break into the post office, and some paint chips on his clothing were of evidentiary value.  At the time he was arrested the police didn't have any clothes for him to wear, so they waited until the next morning (after they bought a shirt and pants) to seize his clothes as evidence.  At his trial, he objected to the admission of his clothes as evidence, saying that their warrantless seizure violated the Fourth Amendment.

   The US Supreme Court ruled that the ten hour delay between his arrest and the seizure of his clothing didn't matter, because he (and his clothing) had been in police custody the entire time.  The court held under those circumstances, the police were entitled to seize the clothing with or without probable cause (it should be noted that this rested on the fact that the arrest was lawful, pursuant to probable cause).

   The court didn't rule that a warrant would never be required when a suspect was already in custody, but it encapsulated its entire ruling with one sentence: "While the legal arrest of a person should not destroy the privacy of his premises, it does—for at least a reasonable time and to a reasonable extent— take his own privacy out of the realm of protection from police interest in weapons, means of escape, and evidence."