The Debate over the Exclusionary Rules Law Essay

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The exclusionary rule has always been the subject of debate; especially following the Supreme Courts decision in Mapp v. Ohio. The courts have increasingly limited the scope of the rule and its feasibility in its present form has become questionable. Many legal analyst, have called for the demise of the exclusionary rule and for the last century, the United States Supreme Court has acknowledged that evidence seized in violation of one's constitutional Fourth Amendment rights cannot be used against them in a criminal trial.

The exclusion of this evidence was a method of deterring police misconduct and became known as the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule stands for the suggestion that evidence discovered by an illegal search or the fruits of a search in violation of Fourth Amendment rights cannot be used in a criminal prosecution. However, based on the ruling of Herring v. United States (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court may have altered the exclusionary rule and its usefulness to defendants who have their constitutional rights violated. "To trigger the exclusionary rule, police conduct must be sufficiently deliberate that exclusion can meaningfully deter it, and sufficiently culpable that such deterrence is worth the price paid by the justice system" and a "case-by-case, multifactored inquiry into the degree of police culpability." (Herring v. United States , 2009)

The exclusionary rule was first implement with Boyd v. United States, in 1886 "which involved not a search and seizure but a compulsory production of business papers which the Court likened to a search and seizure." (Enforcing the Fourth Amendment: The Exclusionary Rule) However in 1914 the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Weeks v. United States and this was the first application of what eventually became known as the "exclusionary rule and applied to illegal searches by federal officers. Following this ruling other landmark cases followed such as: Wolf v. Colorado (1949) where the Fourth Amendment, but not the exclusionary rule, applied to states, Mapp v. Ohio (1961) the exclusionary rule applied to states and Linkletter v. Wallace (1965) where the exclusionary rule was not to be applied retroactively.

The Supreme Court chose the exclusionary rule as a judicial remedy in hopes of placing safeguards on a defendant's constitutional right through deterrence. Their purpose was to deter law enforcement officers from unconstitutional searches and seizures, as well as providing the courts a basis in to determining the exclusion of evidence in a constitutional violation of The Fourth Amendment. The hope was that deterrence would compel law enforcement and prosecutors to develop procedural training standards so there would little if any violations. Once the rule applied to all states, the Court began to implement exceptions to the exclusionary rule. Soon after Mapp the Court "excluded undercover operations from any scrutiny whatsoever under the Fourth Amendment; refused to apply Mapp to free prisoners previously convicted by illegally obtained evidence; and reaffirmed the rule that only the search victim can invoke the rule, even when the evidence incriminates others." (Exclusionary Rule - Origins And Development Of The Rule) In landmark cases The Supreme Court began to makes exceptions to the exclusionary rule, where illegally obtained evidence would be admitted:

In the landmark case of Leon v. United States, the Court stated that "The Fourth Amendment contains no provision expressly precluding the use of evidence obtained in violation of its commands, and an examination of its origin and purposes makes clear that the use of fruits of a past unlawful search or seizure work" and "the question whether the exclusionary sanction is appropriately imposed in a particular case as a judicially created remedy to safeguard Fourth Amendment rights through its deterrent effect, must be resolved by weighing the costs and benefits of preventing the use in the prosecution's case in chief of inherently trustworthy tangible evidence." (United States v. Leon, 1984)

In contemplating on whether to exclude evidence, the Supreme Court conservatively has focused on law enforcement's willingness to cooperate in future deterrence rather than focus on the severity of defendant's constitutional violations. In Hudson v. Michigan, the Court has calculated the cost and benefits against society when excluding evidence; Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the CourtA that "The social costs to be weighed against deterrence are considerable here. In addition to the grave adverse consequence that excluding relevant incriminating evidence always entails-the risk of releasing dangerous criminals-imposing such a massive remedy would generate a constant flood of alleged failures to observe the rule." (Holland, 2009)

The Supreme Court has on the whole stated that in order for evidence to be excluded, "law enforcement conduct must be "sufficiently deliberate that exclusion meaningfully can deter it, and sufficiently culpable that such deterrence is worth the price." (Holland, 2009) Many proponents of the rule ask if the social cost must be weighed, against deterrence of police misconduct to what degree are police allowed to violate The Fourth Amendment before there is punishment. In Herring the court ruled that police culpability must be deliberate and culpable violations. Furthermore, by repeatedly accentuating that the "grave" social costs of suppressing evidence that was obtained in violation of one's rights, the Court pointed out, that criminal evidence against a defendant remains advantageous to society and the state, regardless of how it was obtained. Even if deliberate police actions such as; declining to seek a warrant despite having probable cause, failure to advise a defendant of his Miranda Rights, entering a premise without probable cause and conducting a warrantless search, or falsifying a warrant affidavit violate one's rights. The defendant now carries the burden of proof that police conduct was "sufficiently deliberate." These deliberate actions are a clear violation of The Fourth Amendment, yet the Court states that the social costs to be weighed against deterrence are considerable and therefore illegally obtained evidence is admissible against the defendant and there is no culpability on the part of officer.

Primarily the exclusionary rule was considered penalty for police misconduct violating the constitutional rights of a defendant, but when evaluating the appropriateness of excluding evidence, the Court has unequivocally weighed the benefits of deterrence versus suppressing tangible evidence. Consequently this has left defendants to seek other legal remedies such as civil actions against the officers, although in many states police officers benefit from immunity and "juries are less likely to impose punitive damages to a criminal defendant." (Curran, 1999) Other possible legal remedies to deterring police misconduct under the Fourth Amendment could entail:

Historically the exclusionary rule has had an influence on police conduct, but the Court must consider the most advantageous deterrence comes from setting the sanction equal to the offender's expected gain and holding that person responsible for constitutional violations. Otherwise the exclusionary rule encourages a "see-no-evil" approach on part of officers and becomes of little benefit to the defendant.

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The Debate Over The Exclusionary Rules Law Essay. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved December 5, 2023 , from

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