Today was the final day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court for this term, which means the justices now start to hunker down for the spring push to get opinions out before the term ends in late June.
Rumors were strong that the Court was going to hand down a decision in one of its marquee cases this morning, but instead, Justice Antonin Scalia announced one of the less-known, but significant criminal cases of the term: Virginia v. Moore, available here.
The Court unanimously reversed a Virginia Supreme Court decision that invalidated the drug conviction of David Lee Moore. Police had arrested him for driving with a suspended license which, under state law, is a non-arrestable offense. Police searched Moore and found he was carrying crack cocaine. The state court reasoned that the arrest was improper under state law and violated the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, so the fruits of the search should be inadmissible at trial.
Scalia wrote that states are entitled to protect citizens against improper searches and seizures beyond what the Fourth Amendment requires. But state law doesn't "alter the content of the Fourth Amendment." Since the arrest was permissible under U.S. Supreme Court "probable cause" standards, the evidence did not need to be excluded, Scalia wrote. There were no dissents, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote separately to state she agreed with the judgment, but disagreed with Scalia's reasoning.