Supreme Court rules on case involving GPD

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Alabama man arrested during a routine traffic stop had his day in court — the Supreme Court of the United States.

Willie Gene Davis sought to overturn his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, arguing that a 2009 Supreme Court ruling precluded prosecutors from using a revolver police found in his car.

The discovery took place after police had arrested and handcuffed Davis for giving a false name during a 2007 traffic stop at South Street and South Perry Street in Greenville. Greenville Police Department Sgt. Curtis Miller was the arresting officer.

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“I think it’s pretty unique that the Supreme Court heard this case,” Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram said.

“They don’t hear everything that’s sent up their way.”

Justice Samuel Alito, writing on behalf of the court, said prosecutors could use the evidence because the search took place two years before the 2009 ruling, which requires law enforcement officers to demonstrate an actual and continuing threat to their safety posed by an arrestee, or a need to preserve evidence related to the crime of arrest from tampering by the arrestee, in order to justify a warrantless vehicular search incident to arrest conducted after the vehicle’s recent occupants have been arrested and secured.

The court ruled that the search was legal under the court precedents that applied to Alabama at the time, Alito said.

“Excluding evidence in such cases deters no police misconduct and imposes substantial social costs,” Alito wrote.