reach...Such a container may, of course, be searched whether it is open or closed." A "container" was
defined as "any object capable of holding another object. It thus includes closed or open glove
compartments, consoles, or other receptacles located anywhere within the passenger compartment, as
well as luggage, boxes, bags, clothing, and the like." New York v. Belton, 69 L.Ed.2d 768 (1981).
This area does not, however, include the trunk. It also does NOT include a search of the area
behind a rear door panel when, in order to get at the area, the police had to remove the door panel and
the rear seat. The issue is one of reasonableness. Is it reasonable to believe that the suspect could
reach the area with a sudden movement? Where the entire rear seat and door panel had to be
removed in order to get at the area, the court understandably said no. State v. Cuellar, 511 A.2d 745
(N.J. Super., 1986). A suspect may, however, be removed from the vehicle prior to the search. This is
a reasonable precaution for the police officer's safety. (MRE 314(g) 2.)
e. The movements of the suspect--What is his "surrounding area?" In one case, the police
stopped a person who asked permission to enter his residence in order to get an identification card.
The police officer said this was all right, and followed the subject to his room at a university dormitory.
This led to a seizure of drugs which the police officer discovered in the room. The Supreme Court held
that "it is not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment for a police officer, as a matter of routine, to
monitor the movements of an arrested person, as his judgment dictates, following the arrest. The
officer's need to ensure his own safety--as well as the integrity of the arrest--is compelling."
Washington v. Chrisman, 70 L.Ed.2d 778 (1982).
Suppose the suspect had wanted to enter his room for a change of clothing? What if the
"change of clothing" is said to be in a dresser? Under these facts, remember that the officer may follow
the person who has been apprehended. The individual may not be reaching for a shirt--he may be
reaching for a gun. This is another rule, then, that considers the need to protect the police officer. So
long as the police are not engaged in a mere subterfuge by deliberately moving the subject throughout
the home in order to search different rooms, they may act reasonably in the protection of their safety. It
is not a subterfuge, of course, if the movement is at the subject's request. As long as there is a
legitimate reason for the subject moving (such as where he himself asked to do so), the police may
follow the subject. As the subject moves, the area that is within his "lunging distance" also changes. If
he goes to a dresser, for example, that area is now within his reach. This is simply a rule of reason.
Were it otherwise, the subject could easily gain access to a weapon. If the police officer couldn't
continually follow the person who has been apprehended, the subject could simply flee. Again, you
should understand that these are rules of reason, designed to accommodate both the Fourth
Amendment protection of the individual suspect, as well as the needs of the police.