Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969)

Chimel v. California

No. 770

Argued March 27, 1969
Decided June 23, 1969
395 U.S. 752



Police officers, armed with an arrest warrant but not a search warrant, were admitted to petitioner’s home by his wife, where they awaited petitioner’s arrival. When he entered, he was served with the warrant. Although he denied the officers’ request to "look around," they conducted a search of the entire house "on the basis of the lawful arrest." At petitioner’s trial on burglary charges, items taken from his home were admitted over objection that they had been unconstitutionally seized. His conviction was affirmed by the California appellate courts, which held, despite their acceptance of petitioner’s contention that the arrest warrant was invalid, that, since the arresting officers had procured the warrant "in good faith," and since, in any event, they had had sufficient information to constitute probable cause for the arrest, the arrest was lawful. The courts also held that the search was justified as incident to a valid arrest.

Held: Assuming the arrest was valid, the warrantless search of petitioner’s house cannot be constitutionally justified as incident to that arrest. Pp. 755-768.

(a) An arresting officer may search the arrestee’s person to discover and remove weapons and to seize evidence to prevent its concealment or destruction, and may search the area "within the immediate control" of the person arrested, meaning the area from which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence. Pp. 762-763.

(b) For the routine search of rooms other than that in which an arrest occurs, or for searching desk drawers or other closed or concealed areas in that room itself, absent well recognized exceptions, a search warrant is required. P. 763.

(c) While the reasonableness of a search incident to arrest depends upon "the facts and circumstances -- the total atmosphere of the case," those facts and circumstances must be viewed in the light of established Fourth Amendment principles, and the only reasoned distinction is one between (1) a search of the person arrested and the area within his reach, and (2) more extensive searches. Pp. 765-766.

(d) United Ste v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, and Harris v. United States, 331 U.S. 145, on their facts, and insofar as the principles they stand for are inconsistent with this decision, are no longer to be followed. P. 768.

(e) The scope of the search here was unreasonable under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as it went beyond petitioner’s person and the area from within which he might have obtained a weapon or something that could have been used as evidence against him, and there was no constitutional justification, in the absence of a search warrant, for extending the search beyond that area. P. 768.

68 Cal.2d 436, 439 P.2d 333, reversed.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969) in 395 U.S. 752 395 U.S. 753. Original Sources, accessed September 28, 2023,

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969), in 395 U.S. 752, page 395 U.S. 753. Original Sources. 28 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969). cited in 1969, 395 U.S. 752, pp.395 U.S. 753. Original Sources, retrieved 28 September 2023, from