Week 4 Discussions 7 and 8

The exclusionary rule states the courts will exclude any evidence that was illegally obtained, even though it may be relevant and material. Why was the exclusionary rule enacted? Does it benefit or hurt society? Why or why not? Should there be exceptions? If so, what exceptions? Support your answer with direct evidence from the text and outside sources. Initial posts due by Wednesday 11:59 pm CT and response posts due by Sunday 11:59 pm CT.

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For the more than 100 years after its ratification, the Fourth Amendment had little value to criminal defendants because seized evidence that was in violation of the warrant or reasonableness requirements was still admissible in their trial. In 1914, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a strong version of the exclusionary rule, in the case of Weeks v. United States, under the Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures but this was geared toward Federal not state governments, so it still was weak. Weeks involved the appeal of a defendant who had been convicted based on evidence that had been seized by a federal agent without a warrant or other constitutional justification. The Supreme Court reversed the defendant’s conviction, thereby creating what is known as the “exclusionary rule.”

Then in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), the Supreme Court expanded the rule to include state government. (Lyman Pg. 125)The “exclusionary rule” was orchestrated to help deter police misconduct. Under the rule, defendants can challenge the admissibility of evidence in which the court then determines if it will allow the evidence to be introduced at the trial. If the jury convict the defendant, he/she can challenge the trial court’s decision denying the motion to suppress on an appeal. (Lyman Pg. 125 – 127)The “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine goes along with the exclusionary rule and the court can exclude not only evidence that was determined unconstitutional from the trial but any other evidence that is discovered from an illegal search. Therefore, if a defendant is arrested for a crime and even confesses he did it, if the arrest was determined to be unconstitutional by the court, any evidence tied to the findings after arrest is also ruled inadmissible, including the confession.

(Lyman Pg. 125 – 127)Is the ruling good or bad? My opinion on this leans towards the opinions of Radley Balko, the senior editor for Reason magazine. Balko states, “Conservatives have long despised the exclusionary rule, arguing that it protects the guilty (by disallowing evidence of their guilt at trial) and does little to protect the innocent (those who’ve done nothing wrong aren’t going to be prosecuted). There’s some merit to those arguments. It is an imperfect remedy to search and seizure violations.” He adds however, “The problem is that right now, it’s really the only remedy. If police officers can make a case against someone using evidence they obtained illegally, what’s to stop them from disregarding the Fourth Amendment entirely?” (Balko, Fox News)

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