By Adam Liptak, New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled 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 5-3 decision (pdf), said such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment when the warrant is valid and unconnected to the conduct that prompted the stop.
Thomas’ opinion drew a fiery dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said that “it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny.”
“This case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time,” she wrote. “It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”
The case, Utah v. Strieff, No. 14-1373, arose from police surveillance of a house in South Salt Lake based on an anonymous tip of “narcotics activity” there. A police officer, Douglas Fackrell, stopped Edward Strieff after he had left the house based on what the state later conceded were insufficient grounds, making the stop unlawful.
Fackrell then ran a check and discovered a warrant for a minor traffic violation. He arrested Strieff, searched him and found a baggie containing…