On Monday morning, the Supreme Court handed down Utah v. Strieff, a case on the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule. The court held that the exclusionary rule does not apply when an officer makes an illegal stop, runs a warrant check on the suspect’s ID, learns that the suspect has an outstanding warrant, and then searches the suspect incident to arrest on the warrant.
The vote was 5-3, with Justice Breyer joining the conservatives and Justice Thomas writing the majority opinion.
I have posted a long and generally critical reaction to Strieff over at SCOTUSblog. My comment begins:
Utah v. Strieff is a significant win for the police. It goes a long way toward creating an exception to the exclusionary rule for searches of persons who have outstanding warrants (which turns out to be a lot of people). At the same time, it’s perhaps less of a win than the police might have enjoyed if Justice Antonin Scalia were still on the Court.
As I have said before, how the Fourth Amendment is doing at the Supreme Court these days depends on whether you focus on rights or remedies. The court has had several defendant-friendly decisions on Fourth Amendment rights, but the court continues to construe remedies narrowly. I believe that no criminal defendant has won a Supreme Court case on the scope of the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule since 1990, when the court handed down James v. Illinois in a 5-4 decision by Justice Brennan. That’s a long dry spell. I had hoped Strieff would change things, but it didn’t.