__ U.S. __ (2016), 14-1373, Utah v. Strieff

Court:United States Supreme Court
Attorney:Tyler R. Green and John F. Bash argued the cause for petitioner. Joan C. Watt argued the cause for respondent.
Judge Panel:THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, BREYER, and ALITO, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined as to Parts I, II, and III. KAGAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined. JUSTICE ...
Opinion Judge:THOMAS, JUSTICE.
Party Name:UTAH, PETITIONER v. EDWARD JOSEPH STRIEFF, JR
Case Date:June 20, 2016
Citation:__ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 2056, 195 L.Ed.2d 400, 84 U.S.L.W. 4430, 26 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 288
Docket Nº:14-1373
 
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Page __

__ U.S. __ (2016)

136 S.Ct. 2056, 195 L.Ed.2d 400, 84 U.S.L.W. 4430, 26 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 288

UTAH, PETITIONER

v.

EDWARD JOSEPH STRIEFF, JR

No. 14-1373

United States Supreme Court

June 20, 2016

         Argued February 22, 2016.

         LOWER COURT CASE NUMBER: 20120854

          ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF UTAH

          2015 UT 2, 357 P.3d 532, reversed.

          SYLLABUS

         [136 S.Ct. 2057] [195 L.Ed.2d 403] Narcotics detective Douglas Fackrell conducted surveillance on a South Salt Lake City residence based on an anonymous tip about drug activity. [195 L.Ed.2d 404] The number of people he observed making brief visits to the house over the course of a week made him suspicious that the occupants were dealing drugs. After observing respondent Edward Strieff leave the residence, Officer Fackrell detained Strieff at a nearby parking lot, identifying himself and asking Strieff what he was doing at the house. He then requested Strieff's identification and relayed the information to a police dispatcher, who informed him that Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation. Officer Fackrell arrested Strieff, searched him, and found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Strieff moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that it was derived from [136 S.Ct. 2058] an unlawful investigatory stop. The trial court denied the motion, and the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed. The Utah Supreme Court reversed, however, and ordered the evidence suppressed.

          Held : The evidence Officer Fackrell seized incident to Strieff's arrest is admissible based on an application of the attenuation factors from Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416. In this case, there was no flagrant police misconduct. Therefore, Officer Fackrell's discovery of a valid, pre-existing, and untainted arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unconstitutional investigatory stop and the evidence seized incident to a lawful arrest. Pp. 4-10.

         (a) As the primary judicial remedy for deterring Fourth Amendment violations, the exclusionary rule encompasses both the " primary evidence obtained as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure" and, relevant here, " evidence later discovered and found to be derivative of an illegality." Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796, 804, 104 S.Ct. 3380, 82 L.Ed.2d 599. But to ensure that those deterrence benefits are not outweighed by the rule's substantial social costs, there are several exceptions to the rule. One exception is the attenuation doctrine, which provides for admissibility when the connection between unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is sufficiently remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstance. See Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586, 593, 126 S.Ct. 2159, 165 L.Ed.2d 56. Pp. 4-5.

         (b) As a threshold matter, the attenuation doctrine is not limited to the defendant's independent acts. The doctrine therefore applies here, where the intervening circumstance is the discovery of a valid, pre-existing, and untainted arrest warrant. Assuming, without deciding, that Officer Fackrell lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Strieff initially, the discovery of that arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence seized from Strieff incident to his arrest. Pp. 5-10.

         (1) Three factors articulated in Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416, lead to this conclusion. The first, " temporal proximity" between the initially unlawful stop and the search, id., at 603, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416, favors suppressing the evidence. Officer Fackrell discovered drug contraband on Strieff only minutes after the illegal stop. In contrast, the second factor, " the presence of intervening circumstances, id., at 603-604, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416, strongly favors the State. The existence of a valid [195 L.Ed.2d 405] warrant, predating the investigation and entirely unconnected with the stop, favors finding sufficient attenuation between the unlawful conduct and the discovery of evidence. That warrant authorized Officer Fackrell to arrest Strieff, and once the arrest was authorized, his search of Strieff incident to that arrest was undisputedly lawful. The third factor, " the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct," id., at 604, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416, also strongly favors the State. Officer Fackrell was at most negligent, but his errors in judgment hardly rise to a purposeful or flagrant violation of Strieff's Fourth Amendment rights. After the unlawful stop, his conduct was lawful, and there is no indication that the stop was part of any systemic or recurrent police misconduct. Pp. 6-9.

         (2) Strieff's counterarguments are unpersuasive. First, neither Officer Fackrell's purpose nor the flagrancy of the violation rises to a level of misconduct warranting suppression. Officer Fackrell's purpose was not to conduct a suspicionless fishing expedition but was to gather information about activity inside a [136 S.Ct. 2059] house whose occupants were legitimately suspected of dealing drugs. Strieff conflates the standard for an illegal stop with the standard for flagrancy, which requires more than the mere absence of proper cause. Second, it is unlikely that the prevalence of outstanding warrants will lead to dragnet searches by police. Such misconduct would expose police to civil liability and, in any event, is already accounted for by Brown 's " purpose and flagrancy" factor. Pp. 9-10.

         2015 UT 2, 357 P.3d 532, reversed.

         Tyler R. Green and John F. Bash argued the cause for petitioner.

         Joan C. Watt argued the cause for respondent.

         THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, BREYER, and ALITO, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined as to Parts I, II, and III. KAGAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined.

          OPINION

         THOMAS, JUSTICE.

          To enforce the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against " unreasonable searches and seizures," this Court has at times required courts to exclude evidence obtained by unconstitutional police conduct. But the Court has also held that, even when there is a Fourth Amendment violation, this exclusionary rule does not apply when the costs of exclusion outweigh its deterrent benefits. In some cases, for example, the link between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of the evidence is too attenuated to justify suppression. The question in this case is whether this attenuation doctrine applies when an officer makes an unconstitutional investigatory stop; learns during that stop that the suspect is subject to a valid arrest warrant; and proceeds to arrest the suspect and seize incriminating evidence during a search incident to that arrest. We hold that the evidence the officer seized as part of the search incident to arrest is admissible because the officer's discovery of the arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence seized incident to arrest.

         [195 L.Ed.2d 406] I

         This case began with an anonymous tip. In December 2006, someone called the South Salt Lake City police's drug-tip line to report " narcotics activity" at a particular residence. App. 15. Narcotics detective Douglas Fackrell investigated the tip. Over the course of about a week, Officer Fackrell conducted intermittent surveillance of the home. He observed visitors who left a few minutes after arriving at the house. These visits were sufficiently frequent to raise his suspicion that the occupants were dealing drugs.

         [136 S.Ct. 2060] One of those visitors was respondent Edward Strieff. Officer Fackrell observed Strieff exit the house and walk toward a nearby convenience store. In the store's parking lot, Officer Fackrell detained Strieff, identified himself, and asked Strieff what he was doing at the residence.

         As part of the stop, Officer Fackrell requested Strieff's identification, and Strieff produced his Utah identification card. Officer Fackrell relayed Strieff's information to a police dispatcher, who reported that Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation. Officer Fackrell then arrested Strieff pursuant to that warrant. When Officer Fackrell searched Strieff incident to the arrest, he discovered a baggie of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

          The State charged Strieff with unlawful possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Strieff moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the evidence was inadmissible because it was derived from an unlawful investigatory stop. At the suppression hearing, the prosecutor conceded that Officer Fackrell lacked reasonable suspicion for the stop but argued that the evidence should not be suppressed because the existence...

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