In Utah v. Strieff, Justice Clarence Thomas, the court found that if an officer illegally stops an individual then discovers an arrest warrant—even for an incredibly minor crime, like a traffic violation—the stop is legitimized, and any evidence seized can be used in court. The only restriction is when an officer engages in “flagrant police misconduct,” which the decision declines to define.
Justice Sonia Maria Sotomayor told us how dead our racial canaries are in America. “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong,” Sotomayor writes, in a dissent joined in part by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant.” In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor tried to wake up courts and the public to the fact that "it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of [scrutiny by traffic stops.]....This case tells everyone, white and cblack, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status any time. .....It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged..... We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but."