Hopefully you’ve paid your parking tickets before you head home tonight, because those lovable SCOTUS scamps issued a rather important ruling on the Fourth Amendment Monday that could make you have a really bad day!
In a rather ridiculous ruling, the court decreed from its Capitol Hill mountain top that an illegal stop-and-frisk is completely, 100% totally fine if that illegal stop-and-frisk ends up with cops finding some REALLY good shit on you, like warrants or illegal drugs. Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered a scathing dissent that makes us wonder just how out of their damn minds the rest of the Supreme Court has become.
At first glance the ruling in Utah v. Strieff seems pretty cut and dried: a local cop (acting on an anonymous tip) noticed a number of people entering and exiting a house about as regularly as a Manhattan Starbucks. Using his super heightened sense of policeman’s gut instinct, the officer followed one of these individuals, Edward Strieff, to a local convenience store. The cop asked Strieff for his I.D., then arrested him for an outstanding warrant related to a traffic ticket. Upon searching Strieff, the officer found a bag of meth, and totally ruined Streiff’s mellow vibe.
In a ruling opinion penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court stated that even though the initial stop was not lawful, since an outstanding warrant was discovered, as well as illegal drugs and paraphernalia, the search was legitimate. So, even though you have a constitutional right designed to protect you from this exact type of horseshit, your Fourth Amendment right now has an asterisk and a footnote that reads, “Certain restrictions may apply.”
Justice Sotomayor didn’t take this too lightly (probably because she’s a Messi-can Puerto Rican or whatever), and scribbled a brutal 12-page dissent that highlights the ignorance and racism inherent in the court’s ruling:
“This Court has given officers an array of instruments to probe and examine you…This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants — so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact. That justification must provide specific reasons why the officer suspected you were breaking the law, but it may factor in your ethnicity, where you live, what you were wearing, and how you behaved. The officer does not even need to know which law you might have broken so long as he can later point to any possible infraction — even one that is minor, unrelated, or ambiguous.”
Cops, illegally searching minorities? Come on, when has that EVER happened?
Sotomayor took issue not just with how it was an illegal stop of a pedestrian in the first place, but that the officer was looking for a reason to make an arrest. The state of Utah admits that both the stop and the search were unlawful, but they caught a filthy druggie with unpaid parking tickets, so justice was served! Never mind that a number of situations can result in an automatic misdemeanor warrant, like inability to pay a traffic ticket, missing a court date, breaking a curfew or drinking while on probation. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!
The officer’s control over you does not end with the stop. If the officer chooses, he may handcuff you and take you to jail for doing nothing more than speeding, jaywalking, or “driving [your] pickup truck . . . with [your] 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter . . . without [your] seatbelt fastened.”
At the jail, he can fingerprint you, swab DNA from the inside of your mouth, and force you to “shower with a delousing agent” while you “lift [your] tongue, hold out [your] arms, turn around, and lift [your] genitals.”
Even if you are innocent, you will now join the 65 million Americans with an arrest record and experience the “civil death” of discrimination by employers, landlords, and whoever else conducts a background check. And, of course, if you fail to pay bail or appear for court, a judge will issue a warrant to render you “arrestable on sight” in the future.
Bear in mind tonight that as you climb behind the wheel, walk down the street, or cruise on your bicycle, any officer who feels a tingle in his Spidey Sense has a right to stop, search, and investigate you, whether or not you were doing anything wrong. Looks like SCOTUS is giving Trump a hand by starting his police state early!