Criminal Procedure/Fourth Amendment. A search incident to a lawful arrest is an exception to the general rule that warrantless searches violate the Fourth Amendment. The exception permits a police officer making a lawful arrest to conduct a warrantless search of the area within the arrestee’s immediate control, that is, the area from within which an arrestee might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.
A search incident to an arrest is valid whether it occurs immediately before or after the arrest. The search incident to arrest need not be delayed until the arrest is effected; rather, when an arrest follows “quickly on the heels” of the search, it is not particularly important that the search preceded the arrest rather than vice versa. Thus, so long as an arrest that follows a search is supported by probable cause independent of the fruits of the search, the precise timing of the search is not critical.