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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Corrosion of Our Civil Liberties

AFTER UTAH V. STREIFF, WHAT NOW?

On Monday, June 20, 2016, the United States Supreme Court came down with a striking and transformative ruling regarding the Fourth Amendment – the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

In short, the Court held that when the Police conduct an illegal stop without flagrant police misconduct, and a valid warrant is found, the police may search the individual stopped.  Moreover, the evidence recovered may be used against the person stopped. This is a significant and far reaching blow the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine within Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence.

A significant amount of attention has been given to Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s dissent to this decision.  Justice Sotomayor is correct; this decision will corrode our civil liberties. However, the Court’s ruling itself must be taken as a call to action for all involved in the criminal justice system.

The key question is, what do we do now? How should we, as everyday people, approach this?

Many are giving advice about staying silent or directing people to disobey an officer’s order to stop.  Anyone who has actually been stopped and searched understands these are not solutions.  In fact, actively disobeying an officer’s order may escalate the situation further.

The only present solution, other than a political one, is for the attorneys who represent defendants to stand up.  To argue and fight against this corrosion of our civil liberties.  It is up to the experienced criminal defense lawyer to distinguish Streiff from the facts surrounding our client’s arrest.  Moreover, we must compel a Jury to recognize that such corrosion is unacceptable. 

It is at these times we must be proud of the mantel we hold.  The experienced criminal defense attorney is the answer to the question Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (who can watch
the watchmen?)

You need an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and liberties.  If you, or someone you know, is facing criminal prosecution, contact me.  


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As a former prosecutor, I fully understand the power law enforcement has. As a trial attorney, I know the law seems very scary.