Criminal Law

Trent Matthews


Dr. Robinson

14 May 2007

Pros and Cons of the Exclusionary Rule

            In todayís criminal justice system, the laws that the constitution established are mostly set in stone and strongly suggested to be abided by. This is said because oneís amendments are taken a lot more seriously than back in the older days. In the past, amendments were not taken as serious because, honestly, I donít believe most police departments were educated on every aspect of the law, but in long run they should have. One of the most controversial acts is the exclusionary act because it deals with, not only the fourth amendment, but the fifth and sixth as well. This rule basically states that no court can allow any illegally gained evidence in trying to convict a person. So the unlawful search and seizure is not taken lightly when it comes to this rule. This law wasnít as complicated before the case, Mapp v. Ohio. Before then it is said that some police department didnít even abide by this ruling. The controversy arises after the case because a defendantís case was dismissed because the evidence found on him was unlawfully discovered. So the question aroused whether or not the exclusionary rule is needed within our criminal justice system because of the controversy.

            When dealing with the exclusionary rule, most people that are against it are oneís that are law biding citizens and those that are guilty criminals. Thatís kind of funny when you read it back because why would we as a society make a rule that was favoring the guilty, but on the other hand that gives a citizen a sense of privacy or privileges. The

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individuals that have pending case on them, mostly dealing with drugs, are in a way helped by this rule because the search and seizure law requires the police officers to have a warrant to enter oneís house or search oneís vehicle, unless probable cause that is. If this law is broken, a guilty individual could walk right out of the courtroom a free man. On a positive part of the rule, yes we all know about the history of police abusing their power and this rule stops that from this stand point. The exclusion rule helps the average citizen when it comes to their rights because it gives privacy or does it. Letís say that a woman is on trial and she is pleading the fifth, which is a legal thing to do. The police get her diary and use that as evidence as a testimony against herself, is that right? So the privacy privilege goes right out the window. The criminal justice field shouldnít be able to find loop wholes because that makes our system and society inadequate. The individuals that are con-exclusion also have a problem with this rule because letís say an individual is put non the stand and has been announced self-incrimination, the system can once again be beaten because some prosecutors are clever enough to make the innocent look guilty and our system has many cases like that, without a fifth amendment violation. So the con-exclusionist believes that the ruling is inadequate for our criminal justice system because it not only lets off the guilty, but it could also make the innocent look guilty and get convicted. So how do the individuals that are pro-exclusion feel about the topic and believe what is right?

            Yes, I believe the people who are for the exclusionary rule feel for the innocent and are upset about the guilty getting off, but maybe that isnít their main concern. Maybe their main concern is the fact that it will clean up the act of many police officers that are

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abusing their power or the law? It was said that some departments didnít ever abide by the rule and never even was educated about this ruling. Most individuals that are police officers are against the ruling because they believe that ďif a person is guilty they are guiltyĒ not matter if the evidence was gathered lawfully or unlawfully. The law basically was made to keep the police officers in line and for departments to start educating their officers. So many cases were started because of this new ruling because some officers still was living by the old days, until the judges and local departments started firing, fining, and suspending officers without pay to get the point around. The rule does help the citizens by making the police officers behave and gives us more privacy. Many police officers complained though because they said it made their jobs that much harder and the fact that a criminal would get off the hook, when everyone in the courtroom knows they are guilty, made them that much more angry. Even though it made the police officers behave I must admit that the probable cause requirements were loosen up for officers. This rule does bring up a good point though, whether or not the officer knows when it is okay to search and seize in the line of duty. The loop hole that is said to the rule in this case is that now this opened the door for police officers to commit perjury on the stand and for prosecutors to use unlawfully seized evidence, just didnít allow officers to commit unlawful searches. Even after all of this, criminal justice systems got even stricter on officers when it came to perjury then, now even a tighter leash was put on them. A law was even in discussion to require all interrogation rooms recorded but that didnít fall through. So the pro-exclusionists seem to really have an issue with police abusing their power and not following the laws, so much that they would rather an innocent person be

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found guilty than a police officer violating someone amendment laws.

            After reading each article from the pro and con side of the exclusionary rule I have came to the conclusion both sides have a point, but I must disagree with the rule. I feel this way because I donít feel that any innocent person should go to prison if they didnít commit the crime because if I was in the same position I know I wouldnít agree with that. I would always think to myself what if this happens to a friend or family member. I must admit that there is a problem when our own law enforcers donít know the law that says a lot about our society. The fact that there are loop holes in the ruling also makes me question the law and wonder was it made to be broken. No, police officers shouldnít search and seize without a warrant but you must admit, you would rather them doing their job than not. If they didnít care about what was going on they wouldnít even try to put criminals behind bars and I donít think I could handle a criminal getting off the hook when he is definitely guilty, except the fact that the evidence was unlawfully gathered. Yes, many police officers abuse their power and break laws themselves but this law put clamps on them but was paid with a cost by allowing the probable cause tactic to be loosen and even the increase in perjury on the stand. The fact of the matter is that we should watch and be more specific on who we have enforcing our laws because this all starts with oneís ethics. So the fact of the matter is the rule of exclusion has itís pros and cons but I would rather take my lose by the means of abuse of power than seeing an innocent man sent to prison for a crime he didnít commit.