The Exclusionary Rule

13 Feb

In Re: Exclusionary Rule as a Check and Deterrent

113 U.S. 82 (2009)

CHIEF JUSTICE ST. MICHAELS delivered the opinion of the Court.

   Excluding evidence that is procured by violating the 4th Amendment is the strongest shield we have to protect against unlawful searches and seizures.  Those who argue that only the guilty benefit from this protection naively insult the very purpose of the 4th Amendment.  There can be no doubt that our founding fathers passed the 4th Amendment not to protect murderers and thieves from unreasonable searches and seizures, but to protect the innocent.  Clearly, this was seen as an important and necessary measure to protect the ordinary and law-abiding citizen from an unbridled violating of his personal autonomy. The consequence of overturning the exclusionary rule would be to render the 4th Amendment but a noble sentiment.  But-for this rule, there is nothing to stop the police from flagrantly and arbitrarily invading one’s right to privacy.

   Relying on law enforcement to regulate and properly sanction itself would simply defy logic.  There exists a necessary and inherent conflict of interests in the proposal that law enforcement should bear the task to govern itself.  There was clearly no debate among the Framers that, in the interests of justice, no institution of power should be self-regulating. Having been acknowledged by our forefathers, this principle is unquestionably reflected in our three-branch system of government; each there as a check on the others.

   Similarly, the rule of law would be devoid of meaning if there existed no means to punish those who offend it. Congress would be powerless were it not for the Executive and Judicial branches to enforce the rules that Congress prescribes. So too would the 4th Amendment without the exclusionary rule to serve as both a consequence and a warning to those who would disregard it. 

   Those who contend otherwise have idealistically and dangerously abandoned common truths that the Framers recognized and sought protection against.  Self-interest is a universally compelling force, but will only go so far as the limits allow. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. recognized that the right to swing one’s fist ends where another man’s nose begins.  In that same vein, it must be accepted that limitations, and consequences for exceeding those limitations, are an integral and indispensable part of a functioning society.

   Though it pains me to accept that many criminals may go free based on a technicality, it terrifies me to imagine a state where the police could grossly violate citizens’ rights to privacy in their home and their body; and do so not only indiscriminately, but without consequence.

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One Response to “The Exclusionary Rule”

  1. Stephen V. October 7, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Wow- I had no idea. Uh, also, did you used to be on the Supreme Court or something??

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