When the police catch a scent that drug activity is going on, they may conduct surveillance to see what is actually happening. From February to June of 2016, a detective of Narcotics known as Douglas Fackrell was watching a South Lake City residence on the premise of an anonymous tip about possible drug activity. He watched people come and go to the residence over the course of a week and became utterly suspicious that drug activity may actually be occurring. An Edward Strieff left the residence in June and Officer Fackrell detained him in a nearby parking lot after watching the house for months. He questioned Strieff immediately about why he was coming and going to the house and what was happening there. After this, he requested his information and found out that Strieff had a warrant out for his arrest.
Once the officer found out this information, he immediately arrested Strieff and searched him. However, he probably wasn’t expecting to find evidence to use against Strieff later that day: methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Strieff would later argue that the evidence against him was obtained from an unlawful investigatory stop. The trial court would deny this motion and the Utah Supreme Court would order that the evidence be suppressed. Many believe that this was a stunt for the Supreme Court to give police more power to stop and question people. The case was a 5-3 ruling and justices decided to relax the exclusionary rile and uphold the use of drug evidence in this case, even though there was evidence proving that Strieff was stopped illegally.
Justice Clarence Thomas gave his opinion in the case and stated that, because there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest, the illegal stop could be ignored in this case. But where are the limitations, if that is the case? How far can the police and the justice system go to prove a man guilty for his crimes? Three of the court’s women justices had strong opinions about the case and believe that the ruling will ultimately discourage police to randomly stop and question people due to the fact that they could be violating constitutional rights and putting their jobs at risk. However, many other people believe that this case will do nothing in the way of making searches more “fair,” and that now a police officer can violate fourth amendment rights and get away with it. So, do you really have protections under the Fourth Amendment like you may think you do?
Fourth Amendment Protections Explained
The Answer is “yes,” but it really depends on the circumstances surrounding your case. The courts will typically follow a two-part test when determining whether there is a privacy issue revolving around the Fourth Amendment. The questions they will ask are this:
- Did you expect to have some degree of privacy before the search?
- Is your expectation objectively reasonable?
Let’s say that you were watched inside a public restroom – wouldn’t you expect that your matters stay private behind closed doors? Judges would consider this expectation to be reasonable. This means that, if the police were watching you in the bathroom on a video camera, and this is then used as a search method, it would go against your Fourth Amendment rights. If your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, then you should be permitted your day in court to have a say and stand up for your rights. This is why it is vital to have an attorney on your side who can help you every step of the way in the complex process. Call us today at The Law Office of Peter Blair for more information on your case and where to begin.