Ripe for Rejection: A Methodology for States’ Departure from Utah v. Strieff and Its Poisonous Fruit
45 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2017 Last revised: 28 Nov 2017
Date Written: 2016
After Utah v. Strieff, a police officer can stop a man on the sidewalk, run his name through a warrant database, arrest him for an old violation, search his person, and seize anything in his pockets or within his immediate reach without a warrant or consent. This scenario and its consequences invite potential abuse. The contraband in someone’s pocket is more of a treasure to law enforcement than the actual execution of an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.
This Article outlines the arguments that state courts should accept when facing the question of whether the attenuation doctrine — an exception to the exclusionary rule — applies when an outstanding warrant is uncovered during an illegal stop.
As the controlling test for application of the attenuation doctrine, the Brown factors — temporal proximity, presence of intervening circumstances, and purpose and flagrancy of official misconduct — show that an outstanding warrant does not attenuate the causal connection between an illegal stop and the seizure of evidence during the search incident to arrest. Excluding such evidence serves the original purposes of the exclusionary rule: deterring official misconduct, remedying the aggrieved party, and preserving judicial integrity.
When considering a Supreme Court decision on a criminal procedure issue of constitutional magnitude, some states embrace the ideals of Federalism and exercise the ability and duty to reject it, if that decision conflicts with their state constitution and precedent. A state’s analytical approach to constitutional questions, as well as its pre-Strieff position in the state split, indicate how likely that state is to depart from the Supreme Court with regard to Utah v. Strieff. In addition, the warrant and population statistics of each state demonstrate the potential for Strieff-induced problems in that state (i.e., the greater the warrant ratio, the more likely an illegal stop will uncover an outstanding warrant).
At the intersection of these categories stand six states: Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah. While this Article’s utility and relevance is universally applicable, these six states are the most likely to and would benefit most from rejecting Utah v. Strieff and its poisonous fruit.
Keywords: Utah v. Strieff, Strieff, exclusionary rule, attenuation doctrine, fruit of the poisonous tree, Fourth Amendment, federalism, outstanding warrants, Brown factors
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