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New York v. Belton

Significance, Impact


State of New York


Roger Belton

Petitioner's Claim

During a lawful arrest of persons riding in an automobile, it is constitutional for the arresting police officer to conduct a warrantless search of the passenger compartment of the arrested person's vehicle and any containers contained therein, and it is constitutional for the arresting officer to search, without a warrant, through an arrestee's jacket.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

James R. Harvey

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Paul J. Cambria, Jr.

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Warren E. Burger, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Potter Stewart (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Byron R. White


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

1 July 1981


During a lawful arrest, it is constitutional for an officer to conduct a warrantless search of the immediate vicinity, including closed containers and zipped pockets.

Related Cases

  • Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307 (1959).
  • Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969).
  • United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973).
  • United States v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1 (1977).
  • California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 (1991).

Further Readings

  • Schwartz, Herman, ed. The Burger Years: Rights and Wrongs In the Supreme Court, 1969-1986. Nation Enterprises, 1987.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988