The exclusionary rule is a law that prevents the use of evidence that police officers have obtained illegally in a criminal trial. In 1914, the Supreme Court created the statute in Weeks v. United States case under the Fourth Amendment. The Courts established the regulation to prevent unreasonable searches and seizures. The purpose of the exclusionary rule is to prohibit law enforcement officers from carrying out searches and seizures that violate the Fourth Amendment and provide remedies to defendants who have had their rights infringed. The exclusionary rule gave defendants the chance to suppress evidence obtained by police officers or prosecutors in violation of their constitutional rights, which included the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment in a criminal case.
Application of the Exclusionary Rule
Exclusionary rule only applies to criminal cases and not to civil cases. The reason is that the process of obtaining evidence is not cause for its suppression in a civil or criminal proceeding. Civil cases usually involve private disputes between parties and organizations. In civil cases, the standard of proof has its basis on the prevalence of evidence. More so, in civil cases, majority of the plaintiffs are always private people acting in their private capacity. On the contrary, criminal cases involve individuals and the federal government. In that case, the Fourth Amendment applies in criminal cases. Courts refuse to apply the Fourth Amendment to actions of individuals. Even so, the primary objective of the Fourth Amendment was to protect citizens from unregulated government action. Apparently, courts believe the constitution does not apply to private individuals, but the state officials. The only time that the exclusionary rule is applicable to civil cases is when the outcome of the case might result in a criminal case.
Effectiveness of the Exclusionary Rule
The exclusionary rule is not effective in achieving the stated motive for its creation. The reason is that prosecutors have lost many cases, which had incriminating evidence since its creation. More so, many criminals have managed to escape the wrath of the law because of the rule. Indeed, the rule fails to prevent misconduct because it increases costs from lost convictions vehemently. On the real sense, there are better alternatives to achieving the goal of the rule. For instance, one viable alternative to the exclusionary rule would be the restitution to victims of police misconduct. The Supreme Court can grant the defendant a cause of action for damages sustained by the conduct of state officials in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which regulate official conduct. Furthermore, the courts can create a tribunal to adjudicate all claims under the statute. According to Rychlak (2009, p. 247), one common alternative is to take the position that some police misconduct must automatically lead to suppression of physical evidence. More so, the author affirms that another alternative is to allow evidence acquired in violation of the Fourth Amendment to be heard by a grand jury to determine the sufficiency of indictment. Epstein and Walk (2016, p.4) state that the Supreme Court plays a unique role in most cases as it has the capability of overturning any rulings.
Law Enforcement Procedures and the Exclusionary Rule
The Fourth Amendment and the US constitution gives people a right to be secure in their homes and that police officers should not violate unreasonable searches and seizures. On a broader perspective, the exclusionary rule deters law enforcement from conducting illegal searches in violation of the US constitution and the Fourth Amendment. Epstein and Walk (2012, p.507) state that the courts have excluded evidence obtained without a search warrant with no consideration of whether Fourth Amendment interests will be advanced. As they explain, the rule is designed to deter police misconduct rather than to punish the judges and magistrates errors. For instance, in Leon v. United States and Mapp v. Ohio, the Supreme Court held that the police gathered their evidence inappropriately. On the real sense, the law prevents police officers from doing their job and putting notorious criminals behind bars.
Parameters and Remedies
According to the Legal Information Institute (n.d, p.1), parameters and remedies that are in place to prevent the violation of the exclusionary rule are the following,
Good faith exception here, evidence obtained by a police officer who acts faithfully and relies on an invalid search warrant is not excluded during the proceedings.
Independent source doctrine if law enforcement obtains pieces of evidence during an unlawful search or seizure, it may later be admissible in court if it is obtained via a constitutionally valid search or seizure.
Inevitable discovery doctrine here, prosecutors may submit evidence in court if it was discovered without the unlawful search or seizure.
Attenuation doctrine evidence may be purged and admissible where the association between the evidence challenged and unlawful search or seizure is too attenuated.
Evidence admissible for impeachment the Supreme Court allowed the exception to prevent individuals from perjuring themselves.
Qualified immunity protects police officers from lawsuits in a case where an individual feels like they have had a violation of their constitutional rights.
Qualified immunity is a doctrine that protects state officials from being liable to money damages where a violation of the constitution was not established. It correlates with the exclusionary directly in a way that the view of good-faith suppression is the overset of the qualified immunity rule. Ideally, the similarity between qualified immunity and good faith exception in the exclusionary rule is that they both relate to deterrence and often arise in connection with police action. In another way, the correlation between the two has its basis on the courts varying and willingness to reach merits when finding qualified immunity.
Impact of Mapp v.Ohio and United States v. Leon on the Exclusionary Rule
In 1961, Mapp became a free woman because the Supreme Court reversed her conviction by using the exclusionary rule as a way of enforcing the Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights. The impact the case had on the exclusionary rule was that states had an obligation to apply the rule in their criminal proceedings. As Epstein and Walk (2012, p.505) assert, the court case built up significant political pressure in the mid-1980s, which resulted in the modification of the Mapps case to the goof-faith exception to exclusionary rule.
In United States v. Leon case, the Supreme Court created the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The case had an impact on the statute in a way that the Supreme Court allowed law enforcement officers to observe search and seizure rules faithfully (Epstein and Walk, 2012, p.505). According to the authors, the Supreme Court held that the good-faith exception is applicable where its deterrence benefits outweigh its substantial social costs. Epstein and Walk (2012, p.511) affirm that the United States v. Leon case brought up the doctrine that the courts might not hypothesize the exclusion on the fact that a constitutional violation was a cause for obtaining evidence.
Epstein, L., and Walk, G. T. (2012). Constitutional Law: Rights, Liberties and Justice, 8th Edition. London: SAGE.
Epstein, L., and Walk, G. T. (2016). Constitutional Law: Rights, Liberties and Justice, 9th Edition. London: SAGE.
Legal Information Institute. (n.d). Exclusionary Rule. Cornell Law School. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/exclusionary_rule
Rychlak, J, R. (2009). Replacing the Exclusionary Rule: Fourth Amendment Violations as Direct Criminal Contempt. Chicago-Kent Law Review, vol. 85, issue 1, article 13.
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