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Bah. I Didn’t Really Care for the Fourth Amendment Anyway

copmistakes.jpgIn case you missed it, yesterday The Sups basically trounced all over our Fourth Amendment rights, further de-fanging the exclusionary rule in search and seizure cases. The conservative majority essentially stated that if the police accidentally violate your Constitutional rights during a search or seizure, the evidence is still admissible.

The case arose out of a situation where the police arrested a man based on an arrest warrant that had been recalled five months before. They found amphetamines on his person. The Supreme Court ruled that the drugs were allowed into evidence. Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, noting: “Evidence may be used ‘when police mistakes are the result of negligence such as that described here, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements.’”

In other words: If the police screw up, that’s your problem, and not the cops; i.e., henceforth, the police will be rewarded for their “mistakes.” You can expect the cops to be making a lot more “mistakes” in the future.

| Comments (17)


"Oops, did I just break into your house and ransack all your stuff? Gee, sorry, sir. But look...I found half a joint! Now you go to jail!"

You do realize that this complete ruins the Law and Order franchise? Because without the obligatory "motion to dismiss" scenes based on the illegal search, leading to a new ploy to get the evidence into court, each episode will be about 10 minutes long. I guess Linus Roache is about the join the unemployment queues.

PaddyDog, your comment assumes that L&O actually cares if they're being accurate in their portrayal of the law.

three elle:

They may not care that much about accuracy but they do love the motion-to-dismiss twist (about four times per episode by my count).

I just can't wait 'til Law & Order uses that "ripped from the headlines" approach for an episode about that naked trout-carrying guy.

Don't knock L&O, the first half-hour of the show made for great hypos while I was studying for Crim Pro 1. Well at least I hope they did, I don't know since my school is refusing to post our dang grades.

On the ruling, why do I feel like a bad liberal for not being too upset about it? I mean probable cause is only "probable", and did finding the gun even require that? I guess as long as the mistake and the search are separable, as they were here, I don't really see the problem.

I love L&O. It's great to watch whilst eating dinner and then falling asleep to, because it's not good enough to keep you awake and not bad enough to really annoy you (but then again I'm not a lawyer).

I can't help but remember Whitebread's view on the exclusionary rule's efficacy in reforming police behavior. His theory was that, basically, since only like 5% of all criminal cases even make it to trial, exclusion is a moot point for the 95% who are processed through the criminal justice system. If the police unconstitutionally discover you are doing something illegal, you can whine about it all you want, but in the end, you'll probably strike some sort of plea bargain.

Exclusion issues make great law school exam questions, but in the grand scheme of things, don't have much of an effect. In Civ Pro, Whitebread always threw around the idea of personal liability for cops who perform unconstitutional searches.

So much for fruit of the poison tree.

I would expect more from Supremes. You can only support this if you believe that people always have good motives... and if they did we wouldn't have to have rules governing, well, anything. I can't wait to see how many incidences of negligence start to pop up now. "Whoops, we found drugs on Jay-Z because we accidentally mistook him for Paris Hilton and stopped him on a warrant for an old moving violation of hers."

kushiro, I am setting my TiVo NOW for that naked fish slapping episode. Now that's entertainment!

Did I say Civ Pro? Long day working on a civil suit will do that to you, I guess. That should have said "In Crim Pro..." Although, had Whitebread taught Civ Pro, it would have been much more enjoyable.

Yeah, those cops sure a bunch of bastards for searching me when I had drugs in my pocket or in the crack of my ass. Mean, evil and constantly harassing ordinary citizens who can't seem to keep drugs and other shit out of their pockets. How dare they come into my house and find my bomb when a couple of commas and semicolons were clearly out of place on the warrant. I can't keep smoking crack and stealing shit with all of this police harassment!

Honest and law abiding people have nothing to wring their hands about with the judgement. Criminals bitch all the time when their beloved 'rules' are broken when the cops find them with the gas can and the matches.

And I guess the defendant was "mistakenly" carrying the drugs? I'm not sure that this case has completely eviscerated the 4th amendment as you suggest. Presumably, the burden will be on the police to substantiate that the mistake was "the result of negligence...rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements." It would seem to me that this standard should be enough of a safe-guard against violation of 4th amendment rights.

I don't want to be in the ill-fated minority here, but did the cops scrounge up a recalled warrant to arrest a guy fraudulently, or was the warrant not removed from his record and the police acted in execution of what they believed was a standing court order?

I'm just askin'. Don't kill and eat the curious.

This is for Eep, from Federalist 51.

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."

bucslim can be the first volunteer for the daily body cavity search program that the government is testing. Since he(she?) is law abiding, he'll have nothing to worry about!

Goddamn right they can do the daily body cavity search! I'll voluntarily bend over and spread that shit! I'll put things up there like a note that says, "You're getting closer!!" and some class rings. After everyone's taken turns staring into my gaping hole and fishing around a bit, I'll walk home feeling refreshed and secure knowing that because I don't hide illicit drugs or WMD's in my ass, I have nothing to worry about.

As stupid and banal as that sounds, there actually ARE people who do have something to worry about when Starskey and Hutch snap on the rubber gloves and slather on the lube.