Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What exclusionary rule?

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that our 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure is now subject to a balancing test - were the actions of the police so out-of-bounds that evidence should be suppressed to deter future conduct? 

The majority also said that the exclusionary rule did not confer an individual right.  Maybe I'm just missing something but, near as I can tell from my (apparently) rudimentary education, the 4th Amendment says
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."
Maybe I'm just missing something, but it sure seems as if the 4th Amendment confers individual rights.

So, according to the Supreme Court, the police can violate your right against unreasonable search and seizure all they want; and as long as they don't cross over some undefined line, any evidence they obtain is admissible against you, provided the court detemines what you did was bad enough.  In other words, the new test is who committed the bigger sin: the citizen or the cops? I guess this also means that the presumption of innocence is next on the chopping block.  

Equally disturbing is Chief Justice Roberts' statement that the fact Bennie Dean Herring had been in trouble with the law before was all the "probable cause" the police needed to harass him.

No comments: