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Licking County officials don’t foresee large impact after vehicle-search ruling

Meanwhile, defense attorney praises court decision

Posted April 26, 2009
By Russ Zimmer, Advocate Reporter

NEWARK — A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last week restricts the circumstances in which a police officer can search a vehicle, but it’s difficult to forecast the local impact, county legal officials said.

The high court’s Tuesday opinion in Arizona v. Gant reversed a 28-year-old precedent that allows law enforcement officials to search vehicles after the arrest of the driver for no other reason.

Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt and Newark Law Director Doug Sassen cautioned against assuming this would have major implications for active and future investigations or prosecutions.

Probable cause, consent of the driver or an inventory search when a vehicle is impounded remain valid reasons to examine the interior of a vehicle, Oswalt said.

“I would say it’s probably not a huge deal,” he said of the ruling, “because most fact patterns lend themselves to multiple justifications for search when you’re dealing with an automobile stop.”

Defense attorney Rob Calesaric, who practices in several areas of law involving driving, praised the ruling and said the state had been exploiting case law that provided for officer safety during traffic stops.

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