Baseball Crank
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June 15, 2006
LAW: Five for Law Enforcement

The Supreme Court held 5-4 today in Hudson v. Michigan - with the five being Justices Scalia (who wrote the opinion), Thomas, Kennedy, Roberts and Alito - that when police officers enter a house without knocking and announcing their presence, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the remedy for that violation is not exclusion of the evidence seized in the following search, but is limited to discipline or legal action against the offending officers. While the Court recognized the important interests served by the knock-and-announce rule, including preventing unnecessary gunplay initiated by surprised targets of a search, it concluded that the interests served by the exclusionary rule were too attenuated from the manner of entry to a dwelling to be searched, especially given that the manner of entry was not even the cause of obtaining the evidence:

[E]xclusion may not be premised on the mere fact that a constitutional violation was a "but-for" cause of obtaining evidence. Our cases show that but-for causality is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for suppression. In this case, of course, the constitutional violation of an illegal manner of entry was not a but-for cause of obtaining the evidence. Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house.

(Emphasis in original). The Court's application of this common-sense limitation on the exclusionary rule, with its drastic costs to law enforcement, was rejected by the Court's liberal wing - Justices Breyer, Souter, Stevens and Ginsburg. An object lesson in the consequences of judicial nominations.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:39 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

This is an interesting case. In order to agree with the majority, I'd have to think that there are valid reasons why cops would be unable to knock on doors and announce themselves, above and beyond "we forgot". In the absence of that, it seems to me that this enshrines in the Constitution the idea that it's easier to get forgiveness than permission, and thus gives license to disregard the knock-and-announce principle.

Posted by: Jerry at June 20, 2006 9:02 PM

The exclusionary rule has a place in the justice system, but should be reserved for the most egregious abuses. Is there anyone in this country who doesn't know they have the right to remain silent? Failure by a police officer to read the Miranda warning correctly (or other minor procedural mistake) should result in either additional training for the offending officer or an appropriate disciplinary action. The shameful practice of dismissing cases over any police error is the real legacy of the Warren court. Brown v. BoE should have been the legacy.

Posted by: LargeBill at June 21, 2006 9:13 AM

May you be ejected from your bed in the middle of the night by police with a warrant, Crank.

Posted by: Rob McMillin at June 21, 2006 8:52 PM

Rob, I don't presently have any evidence of criminal activity in my house, so if the cops did that, the exclusionary rule would be of no use to me. It only grants a remedy to the guilty.

Posted by: The Crank at June 22, 2006 12:27 PM
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