Supreme Court Ruling Limits Constitutional Protections Against Searches

Evidence gathered after police illegally detain someone may be used in court absent ‘flagrant’ misconduct by law enforcement

WSJ, By Jess Bravin, June 20

WASHINGTON—A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday limited constitutional protections against searches, ruling that evidence gathered after police illegally detain someone could be used in court absent “flagrant” misconduct by law enforcement.

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said a police officer’s possible “negligence” in stopping a pedestrian without reasonable suspicion shouldn’t prevent prosecutors from charging him with a drug offense.

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Justice Thomas was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan filed separate dissents, each joined in part or in whole by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“This case 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,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop” and allow prosecution for any evidence he finds.


Update, Hullabaloo: QOTD: Justice Sotomayor

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. 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. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.

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