Should evidence seized after an unlawful stop be admissible? Utah lawmaker challenges Supreme Court

Stock image, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawmaker is proposing to limit the effects of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bolstered police power to use evidence even if officers did something wrong to get it.

Sponsored by Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, the legislation – Search and Seizure Amendments, designated HB 392 in the 2018 Legislature – would bar all evidence gathered after an illegal stop. The bill has been criticized by state prosecutors, while a libertarian-leaning group argued it would curtail the potential for police abuse.

The 2016 ruling in question from the U.S. Supreme Court could make police more likely to stop people even if there was no reason to think they were doing anything wrong, Connor Boyack with the Libertas Institute said.

The justices decided a man named Edward Joseph Strieff could be convicted of drug crimes even though officers found methamphetamine after an illegal stop in the city of South Salt Lake.

The divided court found the evidence was legal because there was a warrant out for Strieff’s arrest. The dissenting justices said it was a blow to constitutional rights because officers only found the unpaid traffic citation after stopping him without probable cause.

Greene said Monday that the ruling was troubling. While most police officers respect people’s rights, there is an occasional exception, he said.

We’ve all heard and seen there are those who would abuse power, and this opens the door for abuse, even if it is in small doses,” he said. “It is not, in my opinion, the direction we want to be going as a free society, to whittle away at our constitutional protections.”

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that the plan goes too far.

“It punishes officers’ good-faith efforts to comply with the law. It also unfairly distorts the truth-finding process by suppressing evidence lawfully seized from criminals already subject to arrest,” Solicitor General Tyler Green said. Green successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the evidence against Strieff was legal because he was arrested on a valid warrant.

“Courts already protect citizens from police abuses by suppressing evidence when officers cheat to get it,” he said.

Greene said the bill would keep state law where it was when the Utah Supreme Court decided that evidence from the Strieff stop could not be used.

“I am somewhat disappointed that the state felt the need to overturn, and successfully overturned, our homegrown jurisprudence,” he said.

As of Tuesday, HB 392 was in the House Rules Committee, but Greene said he expects the bill to have a hearing in the coming days.


Read more: See all St. George News reports on Utah Legislature 2018 issues

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • bikeandfish February 20, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Seems like an important conversation even if it potentially slows the prosecution of known criminals. Collecting evidence during an illegal arrest or encounter by police seems a dangerous precedent to support. I’m sure there is more nuance in the SCOTUS ruling but we always have to be a careful in constraining the police apparatus to legal mechanisms as liberty is paramount.

  • 42214 February 20, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Mapp v Ohio was the landmark case that created the exclusionary rule and has been the standard for all search and seizure cases for decades. An equitable solution around this standard has been looked at for years without success. I doubt this effort will work to change things.

  • DRT February 20, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Fruits of a poisonous tree…

  • utahdiablo February 20, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Gotta break a few eggs to make a omelette….if it gets these POS out of our lives, so be it

    • 42214 February 21, 2018 at 8:57 am

      You won’t think it’s a good idea if it’s your eggs that get broken.

  • Striker4 February 21, 2018 at 2:28 am

    This should get interesting

  • Travis February 21, 2018 at 3:07 am

    I am assuming utahdiablo means “POS” are the cops!

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