In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court has given police more leeway in dealing with the public regardless if they have committed a crime.
In Utah, an officer stopped a car with no reason to believe the driver was doing anything wrong, found out he had an arrest warrant for a minor traffic violation, searched his vehicle, and found some narcotics. John Whitehead, founder of The Rutherford Institute picks up the story.
"The case went to court [and] his lawyer said that the evidence should be suppressed – the reason being our Fourth Amendment requires probable cause, clear evidence of illegality, before you pull an American citizen over on the street and question them or whatever," the attorney explains. "The Utah Supreme Court actually said the evidence should be suppressed. It violated the Fourth Amendment."
But the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court which said, in essence, the officer may have made a mistake in violating the defendant's constitutional rights but the evidence could be used against him anyway.
"So what it means," says Whitehead, "is that any citizen now, if you're walking anywhere along the street, it doesn't matter what you're doing or not doing, a policeman can pull you over [and] search you."
And any evidence seized, albeit without a warrant or suspicion of a crime, is admissible in court, he adds.
"I hope people haven't forgotten a couple of years ago the Supreme Court ruled that if you're arrested for just a traffic violation you can be strip-searched at a police station now and your DNA taken," Whitehead points out.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the majority decision, saying the 5-3 decision "implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged."