- Click here for the article.
The Supreme Court divided largely along ideological lines Monday in ruling that police can seize evidence from an unconstitutional search if they first discover the suspect has one or more outstanding arrest warrants.
The court's four conservative justices, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, ruled that even if police violate the Constitution by stopping someone without suspicion, an arrest warrant entitles them to conduct a search. In that circumstance, they said, there is no "flagrant police misconduct."
"Evidence is admissible when the connection between unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstance," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote. The vote was 5-3.
The decision was controversial because in some cities thousands of people have arrest warrants pending against them, mostly for traffic violations as insignificant as unpaid parking tickets.
There were 16,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Ferguson, Mo., as of 2015 — a figure that amounts to roughly 75% of the city’s population — the Justice Department found during its investigation into the 2014 police shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old African-American man. Cincinnati recently had more than 100,000 warrants pending for failure to appear in court. New York City has 1.2 million outstanding warrants.
The high court case involved a Utah narcotics detective's detention of a man leaving a house that was under observation for possible drug dealing. Based on the discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant for a minor traffic infraction, the man was searched and found to have illegal drugs.
- Background from ScotusBlog.
- Read Sonia Sotomayor’s Atomic Bomb of a Dissent Slamming Racial Profiling and Mass Imprisonment.
- “So Little Justification that the State Has Never Tried to Defend Its Legality”