Judicially created doctrine proscribing the admissibility at trial of evidence obtained illegally through violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights.
The exclusionary rule, as applied to Fourth Amendment
This newly minted rule was strengthened by Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States
The silver platter doctrine was denounced by the Court in Elkins v. United States
Partially because of state law enforcement officers’ disregard for the Fourth Amendment’s proscriptions, in Mapp v. Ohio
In 1957 Cleveland, Ohio, police officers went to Dollree Mapp’s home with the goal of finding and questioning a bombing suspect. When the officers requested entry, Mapp refused to let them in without a search warrant. The officers returned a few hours later and forcibly entered Mapp’s house. A struggle ensued; officers handcuffed Mapp and carried her upstairs, then searched her entire house, including the basement. They found obscene materials during their search, and she was charged and convicted of possessing them. During her trial, no warrant was introduced into evidence. The Ohio supreme court upheld Mapp’s conviction, although it acknowledged that the methods used to obtain the evidence offended a sense of justice.
In the Mapp majority opinion, the Court deplored the futility of protecting Fourth Amendment rights through remedies such as civil or criminal sanctions. It noted the failure of these remedies and the consequent constitutional abuses and suggested nothing could destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws. The Court declared that if the Fourteenth Amendment did not bar improperly seized evidence, the Constitution would consist of nothing more than empty words. In addition, more than half of the states had already adopted the exclusionary rule through either statutory or case law. Therefore, the Court ruled that the exclusionary rule applied to the states as well as the federal government. This avoided the incongruity between state and federal use of illegally seized evidence. Through Mapp, the Court altered state criminal trial procedures and investigatory procedures by requiring local officials to follow constitutional standards of search and seizure or suffer exclusion of evidence at trial.
Some legal experts theorize that the exclusionary rule is a natural outgrowth of the Constitution. The government cannot provide individual rights without protecting them, and the exclusionary rule provides this function. Therefore, the rule is an implicit part of the substantive guarantees of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, the Fifth Amendment right against selfincrimination, the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process. The exclusionary rule also involves the concept of maintaining judicial integrity. The introduction into evidence of illegally gathered materials must be proscribed to maintain judicial integrity and deter police misconduct.
The most common reason invoked for assertion of the exclusionary rule is that it effectively deters constitutional violations and that this deterrent effect is crucial to the vitality of the constitutional amendments. Beginning with United States v. Calandra
After 1961, when the Court held that the states must apply the exclusionary rule to state investigatory and trial procedures, the rule came under increasing attack by those who argued that it exacts too great a price from society by allowing guilty people to either go free or to receive reduced sentences.
The Court, reflecting societal division over the exclusionary rule, fashioned a number of exceptions to it. For example, in Calandra, the Court refused to allow a grand jury witness the privilege of invoking the exclusionary rule in refusing to answer questions that were based on illegally seized evidence, as any deterrent effect that might be achieved through application of the rule was too uncertain. For the same reason, the Court also held that illegally seized evidence may be admitted at trial in civil cases (United States v. Janis, 1976) and when it would “inevitably” have been discovered through other legal means (Nix v. Williams, 1984) as well as used to impeach a witness’s credibility (United States v. Havens, 1978) and against third persons (United States v. Paynor, 1980).
However, what most eroded the exclusionary rule was the good faith exception,
In 1995 the Court again extended the good faith exception when it held in Arizona v. Evans
Joel Samaha discusses the history of the exclusionary rule, rationales that justify it, and its social costs and deterrent effects in Criminal Procedure (6th ed., Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 2005). For basic information regarding the exclusionary rule and its exceptions, see David Savage’s The Supreme Court and Constitutional Rights (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004), Louis Fisher’s Constitutional Rights: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (2d ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995), Lee Epstein and Thomas G. Walker’s Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice (5th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004), Craig Ducat and Harold Chases’s Constitutional Interpretation: Rights of the Individual (8th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Thomson/West, 2004), and Joan Biskupic’s The Supreme Court and Individual Rights (3d ed., Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1997). Timothy Lynch’s journal article “In Defense of the Exclusionary Rule” (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 23 ) is an advanced study of the exclusionary rule that should be understandable to undergraduate college students.
Due process, substantive
Mapp v. Ohio
Search warrant requirement
Self-incrimination, immunity against
Silver platter doctrine
Weeks v. United States
Wolf v. Colorado