Utah v. Strieff - Oral Argument - February 22, 2016

Utah v. Strieff

Media for Utah v. Strieff

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 20, 2016 in Utah v. Strieff

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 22, 2016 in Utah v. Strieff

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument next in Case 14-1373, Utah v. Strieff. Mr. Green.

Tyler R. Green:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Courts typically apply the exclusionary rule to suppress unlawfully-seized evidence.

The question here is whether to suppress evidence lawfully seized in a search incident to a warrant arrest because the arresting officer found the warrant in a stop later judged to be unlawful. Under this Court's attenuation analysis, such evidence is admissible when, as here, the predicate stop was not flagrant but resulted from an objectively reasonable miscalculation. Extending the exclusionary rule --

Sonia Sotomayor:

Tell me what was objectively reasonable about it.

Tyler R. Green:

Well, Your Honor --

Sonia Sotomayor:

I mean, the police officer admits that the person he saw coming out of the house in question wasn't doing anything.

He didn't know that he lived there, he didn't know what he had done, if anything.

He didn't even really know that there was drug dealing going on in the house.

He was trying to figure that out.

So what was objectively reasonable about stopping this man?

Tyler R. Green:

Justice Sotomayor, we've admitted that this was a miscalculation, but it was a close call.

If the officer here had stopped the first person coming out of the house after receiving the tip, that would have been objectively unreasonable under this Court's case and decision in Alabama v. White. But this person wasn't the first person he saw come out of the house.

He had received the anonymous tip and then had proceeded to corroborate it through three hours of surveillance and observation over the course of the ensuing week.

And all of the traffic he saw during those three hours was the same short-stay traffic that was reported in the tip. Based on his training and experience, that activity was consistent with drug --

Sonia Sotomayor:

It would be interesting if he waited to see whether this was also a short-stay visitor.

Tyler R. Green:

I think he would have --

Sonia Sotomayor:

I don't see how this is any different than stopping the first person you see.

Tyler R. Green:

I think, Your Honor, as -- as we've admitted, I think if he had seen it and it were short stay, I think we may well beat the reasonable suspicion, and I think that's why the prosecutor here conceded that it wasn't. But it was a close call based on everything that he had seen to that point.

And in these circumstances, we think that's why -- where the predicate conduct was a result of -- of misconduct that was not --

Sonia Sotomayor:

What's going to stop police officers -- if we announce your rule, and your rule seems to be, once we have your name, if there's a warrant out on you, that's an attenuating circumstance under every circumstance.

What stops us from becoming a police state and just having the police stand on the corner down here and stop every person, ask them for identification, put it through, and if a warrant comes up, searching them?

Tyler R. Green:

I think -- Justice Sotomayor, I think there are two answers to that question.

First, I think that our rule -- an officer can never count, under our rule, on finding a warrant.

So there is no incentive for him to make that stop.

If there's no warrant and the stop is lawful --

Sonia Sotomayor:

If you have a town like Ferguson, where 80 percent of the residents have minor traffic warrants out, there may be a very good incentive for just standing on the street corner in Ferguson and asking every citizen, give me your ID; let me see your name.

And let me hope, because I have an 80 percent chance that you're going to have a warrant.

Tyler R. Green:

I understand, Your Honor.

And that's the second part of my answer, is that officers can't count -- under our rule, a warrant by itself is not sufficient.

There still must be a separate inquiry into whether the predicate stop was flagrant, and an officer can't count in any particular stop on a judge later concluding that the stop --