In the case of Utah v Strieff, an officer illegally stopped Edward Strieff, and upon running his identification, discovered he had outstanding traffic warrants. He was promptly arrested, and during a search, the officer discovered drugs is Strieff’s pockets.
Strieff argued that the drugs that were found cannot be used as evidence of a crime against him, due to the 4th amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…
This is largely true, as the officer’s stop was illegal, and the discovered drugs were only discovered due to this illegal action. By the language of 4A, the drugs should be completely inadmissible.
However, this wasn’t the opinion of the Supreme Court, who ruled in a 5-3 decision that this is all legitimate, and admissible evidence.
“The evidence Officer Fackrell seized as part of his search incident to arrest is admissible because his discovery of the arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence seized from Strieff incident to arrest,” said the majority’s opinion.
What’s troubling, is that the majority here consisted of those who you wouldn’t think would bruise constitutional rights. That majority was written by Thomas with Alito, Kennedy, and Roberts in agreement.
The descent came from Justice Sonia Sotomayor of all people. In an fiery critical descent, she wrote…
“It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,” she wrote. “For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’ — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.
“By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time,” she added. “It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”
While I’m happy that the proverbial blind squirrel found a nut, this still has me slightly terrified. The justices we expect to keep our constitutional rights intact just chopped off a bit of the 4th Amendment, while the court’s left leaning diversity hire is trying to keep it as fresh as the day it was written.
While I’m sure Sotomayor will run afoul of conservatives in the future, I have to give credit where it’s due, when it’s due. For the first time, I stand with Justice Sotomayor.