Utah v. Strieff

Posted: October 19, 2015 by beguide in case summaries, Criminal Procedure, search and seizure
Tags: ,

WHAT HAPPENED?
Utah police stopped the defendant after seeing him congregate around a house that was being investigated for drug dealing.  The police officer in question did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant, but found out soon after the stop that Defendant had an arrest warrant.  Defendant was arrested and a subsequent search turned up drugs, which were added to Defendant’s existing charge.
WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?
Even the most nominal of stops requires the police to show some level of cause to be valid under the 4th Amendment.  Police are permitted to stop citizens for a minor search pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, provided the officer can prove a standard known as reasonable suspicion.  Here, the officer did not have any basis for the stop, so on the face of it, this case should be an easy win for the Defendant.  The issue arises because the officer could have stopped Defendant had he known of the arrest warrant, which he did not.  So the issue arises on whether or not a search lacks Constitutionality because of the officer’s subjective belief or because of the objective criteria surrounding the search.
WHAT IS THE RULING
This case is not yet decided.
WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION?
Presumably if the police win, all hell could break loose.  Police are permitted a “good faith exception”, where an officer who acts reasonably on bad information gets a pass under the 4th Amendment.  This would create a bizzaro “bad faith exception” where an officer acting poorly gets a free pass if there was any basis for the search independent of the officer’s knowledge.
YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR STRIEFF IF YOU
You enjoy the delicate balance that exists between citizens and the police, and would prefer the police avoid taking risks with our privacy.
YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR UTAH IF YOU:
Love dramatic irony.
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