In a decision that has shocked many in the legal community across the country, The United States Supreme Court made a controversial ruling on June 26th stating that evidence found by police officers after illegal stops may be used in court if the officers conducted their searches after learning that the defendants had outstanding arrest warrants.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision stated that such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment when the warrant is valid and unconnected to the conduct prompted by the stop. While Thomas is no stranger to controversy, this decision may have a profound effect on the state of Michigan and the criminal law landscape.
The case, Utah v. Strieff came about from government surveillance of a home in South Salt Lake based on an anonymous tip of “narcotics activity” there. Officer Douglas Fackrell stopped the defendant after he left the house based on what the state later conceded were insufficient grounds making the stop unlawful (Utah v. Strieff, No. 14-1373). The officer ran a check and found out that the defendant had a warrant for a minor traffic violation and during a search incident to an arrest, the officer found a baggie containing methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia.