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On June 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Utah v. Strieff. A police officer detained Edward Strieff after seeing him leave a residence that the officer believed, based on an anonymous tip and his own surveillance, was a base for drug dealing. A relay of Strieff’s identification to a police dispatcher revealed an outstanding warrant for a traffic violation. The officer then arrested Strieff and searched him, discovering methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Strieff ultimately persuaded the Utah Supreme Court to order that evidence suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful stop.
By a vote of 5-3, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Utah Supreme Court. Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that the evidence the officer seized as part of the search incident to arrest was admissible because the officer’s discovery of the arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence seized incident to arrest. Justice Thomas’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg joined as to Parts I, II, and III. Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg joined.
To discuss the case, we have Orin S. Kerr, who is Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School.