Sotomayor gets personal in presenting her opinion on a Fourth Amendment case.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
SCOTUS says the evidence of a crime may be used against a defendant, even if the police did something wrong or illegal to obtain it. Justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed and argued that the court’s 5-3 ruling in an illegal search case would allow cops to treat African-Americans and Latinos as “second–class citizens.”
Touching on Michael Brown’s case, she expressed the fact that the decision by the majority of the jury in Utah v. Strieff case sanctions a dangerous law enforcement “consciousness,” that would render many innocent people to be considered as criminal suspects over nothing.
“It allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants – even if you are doing nothing wrong,” she wrote.
What happened was a white officer had been suspecting a drug activity and had been monitoring it for a while. Having no base the officer stopped Strieff, searched him and found some narcotics. Upon checking his driver’s license, he found out that he had had an unpaid warrant for traffic violation and arrested him.
The High Court in Utah said the officer illegally acquired the evidence to his claim, which, they said, could not be used against the suspect in court, which exemplifies the Fourth Amendment.
However, the Supreme Court majority ruled differently. According to them, the traffic warrant justified the stop and so Strieff could be prosecuted.
“The discovery of that warrant broke the causal chain between the unconstitutional stop and the discovery of evidence by compelling Officer [Douglas] Fackrell to arrest Strieff,” the majority wrote. “And, it is especially significant that there is no evidence that Officer Fackrell’s illegal stop reflected flagrantly unlawful police misconduct.”
Such decision would not only cause a violation of the Fourth Amendment but would pave a way to a Lynch law that will allow the police not to limit themselves while harassing black people, no matter innocent or not.
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