High Court Takes Up Search & Seizure in Utah Drug Case

     (CN) – The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to review whether evidence in a drug possession case should have been suppressed because the arresting officer didn’t have reasonable cause to stop the suspect.
     The Utah Supreme Court reversed the conviction by conditional guilty plea of Edward Strieff Jr. earlier this year. Originally charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, Strieff moved to suppress evidence gleaned from a stop by the arresting officer – a motion denied by both trial and appeals courts.
     Strieff argued that the arresting officer lacked reasonable cause to stop him, since the officer had only seen him coming out of a house under surveillance for drug activity but did not see him enter or do anything illegal. Furthermore, the officer arrested Strieff for a “small traffic warrant” and then searched him, finding the meth and drug paraphernalia.
     But while the trial court believed the officer had reasonable cause to stop Strieff based on what he saw going on at the house – and the appeals court believed the outstanding traffic warrant was sufficient cause – Utah’s high court held that because Strieff didn’t consent to be searched or confess to any crime, the officer’s illegal stop could not be excused as a good-faith call regardless of the outstanding warrant.
     The state appealed the reversal to the nation’s high court, which agreed to hear the case in the new session.
     Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment in taking up the Strieff case.

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