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Searches and Seizures: Exclusionary Rule

The exclusionary rule is a legal principle that states that evidence collected or analyzed in violation of the U.S. Constitution cannot be used in a criminal trial. It is meant to deter unlawful police conduct. During the past couple of decades, the Supreme Court has been steadily carving out exceptions to the exclusionary rule. This section contains some opinion excerpts that illustrate the Court's approach to the Rule, the exceptions and the reasons behind them.

Court Opinions on the Topic:

Segura v. United States (1984)
United States v. Leon Et Al. (1984)
Arizona v. Evans (1995)
Hudson v. Michigan (2006)


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United States v. Leon Et Al. (1984)
The Honorable Justice BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, dissenting:
Ten years ago in United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 (1974), I expressed the fear that the Court's decision "may signal that a majority of my colleagues have positioned themselves to reopen the door [to evidence secured by official lawlessness] still further and abandon altogether the exclusionary rule in search-and-seizure cases." Since then, in case after case, I have witnessed the Court's gradual but determined strangulation of the rule. It now appears that the Court's victory over the Fourth Amendment is complete.

...[I]t is apparent that the admission of illegally obtained evidence implicates the same constitutional concerns as the initial seizure of that evidence. Indeed, by admitting unlawfully seized evidence, the judiciary becomes a part of what is in fact a single governmental action prohibited by the terms of the Amendment. [...] It is difficult to give any meaning at all to the limitations imposed by the Amendment if they are read to proscribe only certain conduct by the police but to allow other agents of the same government to take advantage of evidence secured by the police in violation of its requirements. The Amendment therefore must be read to condemn not only the initial unconstitutional invasion of privacy -- which is done, after all, for the purpose of securing evidence -- but also the subsequent use of any evidence so obtained. [...] For my part, "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" comprises a personal right to exclude all evidence secured by means of unreasonable searches and seizures. The right to be free from the initial invasion of privacy and the right of exclusion are coordinate components of the central embracing right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

[...]

United States v. Leon Et Al. (1984)
The Honorable Justice BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, dissenting:
A chief consequence of today's decisions will be to convey a clear and unambiguous message to magistrates that their decisions to issue warrants are now insulated from subsequent judicial review. Creation of this new exception for good-faith reliance upon a warrant implicitly tells magistrates that they need not take much care in reviewing warrant applications, since their mistakes will from now on have virtually no consequence: If their decision to issue a warrant was correct, the evidence will be admitted; if their decision was incorrect but the police relied in good faith on the warrant, the evidence will also be admitted.

[...]

United States v. Leon Et Al. (1984)
The Honorable Justice BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, dissenting:
...[T]he good-faith exception will encourage police to provide only the bare minimum of information in future warrant applications. The police will now know that if they can secure a warrant, so long as the circumstances of its issuance are not "entirely unreasonable," all police conduct pursuant to that warrant will be protected from further judicial review. [...] The long-run effect unquestionably will be to undermine the integrity of the warrant process.

[...]

United States v. Leon Et Al. (1984)
The Honorable Justice STEVENS, concurring [...] and dissenting:
Law enforcement officers have long been on notice that despite the magistrate's decision a warrant will be invalidated if the officers did not provide sufficient facts to enable the magistrate to evaluate the existence of probable cause responsibly and independently. [...] Under the majority's new rule, even when the police know their warrant application is probably insufficient, they retain an incentive to submit it to a magistrate, on the chance that he may take the bait. No longer must they hesitate and seek additional evidence in doubtful cases.

[...]

...[T]testimony about the impact of the Mapp decision [applying the exclusionary rule to the states] can be found in the statement of Deputy Commissioner Reisman: "The Mapp case was a shock to us. We had to reorganize our thinking, frankly. Before this, nobody bothered to take out search warrants. Although the U.S. Constitution requires warrants in most cases, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that evidence obtained without a warrant -- illegally, if you will -- was admissible in state courts. So the feeling was, why bother? Well, once that rule was changed we knew we had better start teaching our men about it." N. Y. Times, Apr. 28, 1965, p. 50, col. 1.

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