At issue in State vs. Byrd is whether a police officer violated federal and state privacy rights by searching a defendant’s purse incident to arrest after the defendant was secured in a police car and the purse was left on the ground outside the vehicle.  The Washington Supreme Court determined that the search did not violate either the United States or Washington Constitutions because the purse was part of the defendant’s person and therefore subject to warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest.

Four justices dissented, arguing the search violated state constitutional protections.  Justice Gonzales concurred with the majority, but wrote separately to suggest the search was invalid because the officer lacked probable cause to make the arrest itself.
Continue Reading A Purse Is Part of a Person, Even When the Person is Locked in a Police Car and the Purse is Not