Police can use illegally obtained evidence in court, SCOTUS rules, sabotaging 4th Amendment

Normally, the Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures, but this principle was in question during Utah v. Strieff. Police spied on a house in Salt Lake City, and when Strieff proceeded to leave the house, they stopped him illegally. After running his name in the police database, they found he had a small traffic warrant. The police then searched his person, finding methamphetamine, leading him to be charged with illegal drug possession. Ultimately, the Court held that the search was ex post facto validated because the police could have taken him into custody and searched him incident to arrest on the warrant anyhow, given that there was an active warrant for his arrest. Of course, the police didn’t know he had a warrant until after he was illegally seized, and it was the illegal seizure that led to their learning about the warrant, but that did not seem to matter to the Court.

Strieff’s lawyer argued that allowing the police to use the illegally obtained evidence infringed on Streiff’s rights according to the Fourth Amendment. There is no right without a remedy for that right’s violation. “The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.”

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