SALT LAKE CITY June 20, 2016 – Today the Utah Attorney General’s Office won a case at Supreme Court of the United States on an important Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure issue. In a 5-3 opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court sided with Utah, saying that evidence seized by an officer while searching a suspect incident to arrest on a valid arrest warrant—even if the arresting officer discovered the warrant in a stop later found to be unlawful—is admissible in court as long as the stop is not the result of flagrant police misconduct.
“We’re delighted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said. “This hard-fought victory is a tribute to countless hours of intense preparation, constitutional analysis, and persuasive writing by a number of our appellate specialists — our Solicitor General, Tyler Green, who argued the case; our Deputy Solicitor General, Laura Dupaix, who just retired after decades of dedicated service to the Office; our Criminal Appeals Director, Tom Brunker; and our Search and Seizure Section Director, Jeff Gray. I congratulate them on their victory, which reflects the high-quality representation this Office provides to the people of Utah every day.”
“The Court’s ruling in Strieff corrects an erroneous opinion that made Utah an outlier on this important search-and-seizure issue,” Utah Solicitor General Tyler Green said. “Now courts and prosecutors throughout the country know to follow what has long been the majority rule: Evidence seized in a search incident to an arrest on a valid warrant can be introduced during a defendant’s trial as long as the initial stop did not flagrantly violate the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. And the fact that both conservative and liberal Justices voted for this outcome shows that this isn’t a partisan conclusion, but instead represents a sound balancing of Fourth Amendment policy considerations.”
The Supreme Court heard argument in Strieff on February 22, 2016 — the first day of argument after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The case will now return to the Utah courts for further proceedings consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion.
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