The Supreme Court’s New Attack on the Fourth Amendment

by Tate Fegley

Last month, the Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding the case of Edward Strieff. In this opinion, the majority of the Court argued that it is constitutional for a police officer to detain someone without suspicion and demand their identification in order to see if they have any outstanding arrest warrants. (Or, more accurately, they consider such a search illegal, but will still accept in court the evidence obtained via the illegal search.)

The facts of the case are as follows: An anonymous tip to police claimed that “drug activity” was taking place at a South Salt Lake City residence. Narcotics Detective Douglas Fackrell monitored the property over the course of a week. He considered the number of people making brief visits to the residence to be indicative of drug dealing. He observed Edward Strieff leave the residence, followed him to a nearby parking lot, and detained him. He forced Mr. Strieff to provide his identification and contacted the police dispatch, who informed him that Mr. Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation. Detective Fackrell then arrested Mr. Strieff and, upon conducting a search incident to his arrest, found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, and he was charged with drug possession.

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