The Exclusionary Rule is a principle of law derived from the Fourth Amendment which seeks to protect an individual’s rights. It stipulates that evidence obtained illegally or through a violation of the suspect’s constitutional rights is inadmissible as evidence in the court. It is a judicial law, and precedence was first set in the 1914 Weeks v. the United States case, where a federal officer conducted a warrantless search on the property of Fremont Weeks. Evidenced subsequently procured was deemed inadmissible by the Supreme Court (Oaks, 1970).
However, there are exceptions, and the Exclusionary Rule is no exception to the rule. In the 1984 United States v. Leon case, an officer conducted a search under the belief that it was a legal search. It was later shown that the warrant used was illegal. Considering the Exclusionary rule, the evidence obtained from the search would have been excluded from the trial. Going against the grain, the Supreme Court declared that the officer had acted on ‘good faith’ as he did believe that the search was legal, thereby allowing the prosecution to use the evidence in court. This is referred to as the Good Faith Exception. This was not applied to if the officer should have known that the warrant was invalid.
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One more Exclusionary Rule exception is the existence of an independent source of evidence. This is born of the doctrine of ‘fruits of the poisonous tree’. This doctrine stipulates that the results of an illegal activity; however, polite or noble, they may be, are in themselves illegal (Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. the United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920). In this case, the police engaged in the illegal seizure of the company’s books and created copies. These copies were inadmissible in the court as they were as a result of an illegal act. On the flipside, if the evidence was obtained in part because of an independent source, the Exclusionary Rule is not applied to. This means that had an insider given the authorities the copies they would have been valid as evidence (Taylor, 1983).
The Exclusionary Rule is also overlooked if the discovery of the evidence in question is deemed to have been inevitable. This means that even without the illegal source, it would have been impossible for the federal officers to miss the evidence. This was so in Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431 (1984). Having disclosed the location of the murder, he tried to suppress the evidence as it had been obtained through an illegal interrogation. He lost as a search was already being conducted in that area with the help of volunteers, therefore, the body’s discovery was deemed inevitable. It created a hypothetical untainted source from whom or whence the officers would have procured the evidence in spite of the illegal source.
The Supreme Court created the Exclusionary Rule to preserve the rights of individuals entrenched in the Fourth Amendment. This was necessitated by perceived misconduct by law enforcement agencies. It sought to curb the rampant violations of the law by the law officers themselves in their quest for justice and their zeal and misguided vigor in that pursuit. In the 1961 MAPP V. OHIO case, Dollree Mapp was manhandled and cuffed by officers at her home as the evidence on bombing was sought. They illegally searched her house and got an obscene material. The evidence was declared inadmissible in the court. It has thus proved effective in reining in rogue practices as the resultant evidence of illegal activity is useless in trial; begging the question, why engage in them in the first place?
The Constitution contains laws made by the legislative arm of the government. This is the Congress and the Senate. The Exclusionary Rule is a judicial law. It originates from the judicial arm of government and is based on the Law of Precedence. This stipulates that courts are bound to act in a manner consistent with the rulings of higher courts. Being the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court rulings are law. This is because they bind all other courts to act in the manner prescribed in that ruling. Given that the Exclusionary Rule emanates from the Supreme Court, it follows that it cannot, logically, be in the Constitution. Its absence from the Constitution does not in any way take away from its constitutionality (Wilkey, 1978).
The Exclusionary Rule has had a profound impact on the justice system
Cases that would hitherto have been considered air tight have unraveled because of this tenet of the law. In the aforementioned Mapp v. Ohio, the prosecution had a solid case against Dollree under the Obscenity Law. However, the conduct of the officers in obtaining the evidence which the case was centered upon negated their efforts as they lost the case. The police conducted an illegal search for an individual’s premises and uncovered the evidence of a marijuana stash in a different location. They consequently charge the individual with possession of illegal drugs. The unconstitutionality of the search will compromise their discovery resulting in a loss for the plaintiff. This demonstrates the importance and the effect of the Rule in determining the success or the failure of a case.
It is abundantly clear that the Exclusionary Rule has had a profound impact on the machinations and processes of the judiciary and even more so, on the police practice. In the past, expediency was the yardstick by which all actions were measured. ‘For the greater good,’ was the creed which law enforcement officers lived in accordance with. This has changed. No longer are the individual rights perceived as being inherently inferior to the pursuit of justice. This has resulted in a radical shift, in the way investigations are conducted. The police have embraced the timeless truth that the only way to lead is by example. They have been forced to adhere to the exact rules they seek to protect. This has, in turn, led to greater co-operation between the law enforcement and the general populace due to the confidence that the law will be upheld (Oaks, 1970).