Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-z5z76 Total loading time: 0.374 Render date: 2023-01-30T09:16:11.874Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

The Implementation of Supreme Court Precedent

The Impact of Arizona v. Gant on Police Searches

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

Ethan D. Boldt*
University of Georgia
Michael C. Gizzi
Illinois State University
Contact the corresponding author, Ethan D. Boldt, at


While many scholars have focused on the relationship shared between the Supreme Court and lower courts, fewer have studied how those outside the judicial branch implement court policy. This study examines how police implemented a major shift in vehicle search law after the Supreme Court placed limits on search incident to arrest. Comprehensive traffic-stop data from two states are relied upon for time series intervention analyses to test the decision’s impact. Evidence of the Court’s influence is found in seriously limiting searches incident to arrest and expanding the use of alternative searches as a means to circumvent the ruling.

Research Article
© 2018 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


We would like to thank Christina Boyd, Sara Mitchell, Jamie Monogan, Clayton Webb, and Teena Wilhelm for their helpful comments on early versions of this project. We also wish to thank David Klein and the anonymous reviewers for their useful insights and suggestions. Data and supporting materials necessary to reproduce the numerical results in the article are available in the JLC Dataverse at


Archbold, Carol A. 2006. “Police Legal Advisors in the USA: Past, Present, and Future.Police Practice and Research 7 (1): 61–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baum, Lawrence. 1976. “Implementation of Judicial Decisions: An Organizational Analysis.American Politics Research 4 (1): 86–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benesh, Sara C., and Wendy L. Martinek. 2002. “State Supreme Court Decision Making in Confession Cases.Justice System Journal 23 (1): 109–33.Google Scholar
Benesh, Sara C., and Malia Reddick. 2002. “Overruled: An Event History Analysis of Lower Court Reaction to Supreme Court Alteration of Precedent.Journal of Politics 64 (2): 534–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Box, George E. P., and George C. Tiao. 1975. “Intervention Analysis with Applications to Economic and Environmental Problems.Journal of the American Statistical Association 70 (349): 70–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., John R. Freeman, Matthew P. Hitt, and Jon C. W. Pevehouse. 2014. Time Series Analysis for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brent, James C. 1999. “An Agent and Two Principals: U.S. Court of Appeals Responses to Employment Division, Department of Human Resources v. Smith and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.American Politics Research 27 (2): 236–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brent, James C. 2003. “A Principal-Agent Analysis of U.S. Courts of Appeals Responses to Boerne v. Flores.American Politics Research 31 (5): 557–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bullock, Charles S., and Harrell R. Rodgers. 1976. “Coercion to Compliance: Southern School Districts and School Desegregation Guidelines.Journal of Politics 38 (4): 987–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Canon, Bradley C. 1973. “Is the Exclusionary Rule in Failing Health? Some New Data and a Plea against a Precipitous Conclusion.Kentucky Law Journal 62 (3): 681–730.Google Scholar
Canon, Bradley C., and Charles A. Johnson. 1984. Judicial Policies: Implementation and Impact. Washington, DC: CQ Press.Google Scholar
Cassell, Paul G., and Richard Fowles. 1998. “Handcuffing the Cops? A Thirty-Year Perspective on Miranda’s Harmful Effects on Law Enforcement.Stanford Law Review 50 (4): 1055–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cassell, Paul G., and Bret S. Hayman. 1996. “Police Interrogation in the 1990s: An Empirical Study of the Effects of Miranda.UCLA Law Review 43 (3): 839–932.Google Scholar
Cox, Nicholas J. 2010. “Stata Tip 68: Week Assumptions.Stata Journal 10 (4): 682–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dolbeare, Kenneth M., and Phillip E. Hammond. 1971. The School Prayer Decisions: From Court Policy to Local Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Epp, Charles R., Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald P. Haider-Markel. 2014. Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eterno, John. 2003. Policing within the Law: A Case Study of the New York City Police Department. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
Fagan, Jeffrey, and Garth Davies. 2000. “Street Stops and Broken Windows: Terry, Race, and Disorder in New York City.Fordham Urban Law Journal 28 (2): 457–504.Google Scholar
Gizzi, Michael C., and R. Craig Curtis. 2016. The Fourth Amendment in Flux: The Roberts Court, Crime Control, and Digital Privacy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
Gizzi, Michael C., R. Craig Curtis, and Ethan D. Boldt. 2014. “US Courts of Appeals and State Supreme Court Responses to Arizona v. Gant: A Study in Judicial Impact.Journal of Crime and Justice 37 (2): 214–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gould, Jon B., and Stephen D. Mastrofski. 2004. “Suspect Searches: Assessing Police Behavior under the US Constitution.Criminology and Public Policy 3 (3): 315–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haire, Susan B., Stefanie A. Lindquist, and Donald R. Songer. 2003. “Appellate Court Supervision in the Federal Judiciary: A Hierarchical Perspective.Law and Society Review 37 (1): 143–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hall, Matthew E. K. 2010. The Nature of Supreme Court Power. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hoekstra, Valerie. 2005. “Competing Constraints: State Court Responses to Supreme Court Decisions and Legislation on Wages and Hours.Political Research Quarterly 58 (2): 317–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hoffman, Jeffry, and Richard Seltzer, eds. 1968. “Effect of Mapp v. Ohio on Police Search-and-Seizure Practices in Narcotics Cases.Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 4 (1): 87–104.Google Scholar
Judge, Lisa A. 2009. “Bye-Bye Belton? Supreme Court Decision Shifts Authority for Vehicle Searches from Automatic to Manual.” Police Chief, June.Google Scholar
Leo, Richard A. 1996. “The Impact of ‘Miranda’ Revisited.Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86 (3): 621–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luse, Jennifer K., Geoffrey McGovern, Wendy L. Martinek, and Sara C. Benesh. 2009. “‘Such Inferior Courts …’: Compliance by Circuits with Jurisprudential Regimes.American Politics Research 37 (1): 75–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martinek, Wendy L. 2000. “The Relationship between the United States Supreme Court and State Courts of Last Resort in Search and Seizure Decision Making.” PhD diss., Michigan State University.Google Scholar
McDowall, David, and Richard McCleary. 2014. “Interrupted Time Series Models.” In Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, ed. Gerben Bruinsma and David Weisburd, 2653–65. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Milner, Neal A. 1971. The Court and Local Law Enforcement: The Impact of Miranda. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Peltason, J. W. 1971. Fifty-Eight Lonely Men: Southern Federal Judges and School Desegregation. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
Reiss, Albert J., and Donald J. Black. 1967. “Interrogation and the Criminal Process.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 374 (1): 47–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Remsberg, Charles. 1995. Tactics for Criminal Patrol: Vehicle Stops, Drug Discovery, and Officer Survival. Glenn Ellyn, IL: Calibre.Google Scholar
Rosenberg, Gerald N. 2008. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring about Social Change? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schott, Richard G. 2009. “The Supreme Court Reexamines Search Incident to Lawful Arrest.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, July, 22–31.Google Scholar
Skogan, Wesley G., and Tracey L. Meares. 2004. “Lawful Policing.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 593 (1): 66–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Solari, Jennifer G. 2009. “The United States Supreme Court’s Ruling in Arizona v. Gant: Implications for Law Enforcement Officers.” Federal Law Enforcement Informer, May.Google Scholar
Songer, Donald R., Jeffrey A. Segal, and Charles M. Cameron. 1994. “The Hierarchy of Justice: Testing a Principal-Agent Model of Supreme Court-Circuit Court Interactions.American Journal of Political Science 38 (3): 673–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spiotto, James E. 1973. “Search and Seizure: An Empirical Study of the Exclusionary Rule and Its Alternatives.Journal of Legal Studies 2 (1): 243–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spriggs, James F. 1996. “The Supreme Court and Federal Administrative Agencies: A Resource-Based Theory and Analysis of Judicial Impact.American Journal of Political Science 40 (4): 1122–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spriggs, James F. 1997. “Explaining Federal Bureaucratic Compliance with Supreme Court Opinions.Political Research Quarterly 50 (3): 567–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thyer, Bruce A. 2012. Quasi-Experimental Research Designs. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wasby, Stephen L. 1976. Small Town Police and the Supreme Court. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
Westerland, Chad, Jeffrey A. Segal, Lee Epstein, Charles M. Cameron, and Scott Comparato. 2010. “Strategic Defiance and Compliance in the U.S. Courts of Appeals.American Journal of Political Science 54 (4): 891–905.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Boldt and Gizzi supplementary material
Download undefined(File)
File 234 KB

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Implementation of Supreme Court Precedent
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Implementation of Supreme Court Precedent
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Implementation of Supreme Court Precedent
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *