We have previously discussed the recently decided case by the United States Supreme Court, Utah v. Strieff. This case will likely be seen in years to come as a monumental blow to the Fourth Amendment, which protects all U.S. citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Here, we will discuss the implications of this decision for policing in the United States, and how it can impact you in your personal, day-to-day life.
The Exclusionary Rule
If law enforcement violate your rights by, for example, conducting an unreasonable search or seizure, then if any criminal evidence gets found it will be excluded from the trial against you. This is called the exclusionary rule. It is meant to deter police misconduct.
However, the exclusionary rule has several exceptions. One of these is the attenuation exception.
The Attenuation Exception and Utah v. Strieff
The attenuation exception to the exclusionary rule is simple: If the unconstitutional search or seizure did not cause the discovery of the evidence – if the discovery was attenuated from the unconstitutional act – then the evidence will not be excluded from your trial.
But what does “attenuated” mean? This was the question that the Supreme Court handled in the recent case, Utah v. Strieff. Specifically, the Court had to determine whether an unconstitutional seizure caused evidence of drug possession to be found, when the officer found an arrest warrant for the suspect in between the seizure and the discovery of the evidence.
Unfortunately, the Court decided that the unconstitutional seizure did not cause the discovery of the evidence. This decision can have a huge impact on how police treat you on the streets.
The Impact of the Court’s Decision
Think about it: The officer in Utah v. Strieff had no probable cause to detain the defendant and demand his identification. However, that is exactly what he did. Once the officer had the ID, he ran it through the state database to find an outstanding arrest warrant. During the subsequent arrest, the officer searched the defendant, and found evidence of another crime.
By allowing the evidence of that crime into the defendant’s trial, the Supreme Court is allowing police to detain random people – even if there is no probable cause to believe that they have committed a crime – and demand their identifications to see if there is an arrest warrant out for them.
It is easy to excuse this conduct: Nothing will happen to you, unless there is an arrest warrant with your name on it. However, this overlooks the fact that it allows police, without repercussion to approach anyone on the street and demand to see their ID. This sounds like something straight out of a police state.
The Federal Criminal Law Center Protects Your Rights
The Supreme Court’s decision in Utah v. Strieff is one of their worst decisions in decades, and it will have a huge impact on the everyday lives of countless people in the U.S. Worse, it will result in criminal charges against people who otherwise would not face them. If you get charged with a federal crime, contact the Federal Criminal Law Center online.