The Fourth Amendment provides, in part, that “the right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” The term “Exclusionary Rule” refers to the exclusion of evidence from court which has been illegally seized. Under American law, such evidence was admissible in federal courts until 1914, and in most state courts until 1961.
Significant court decisions:
Adams v. New York (1904) The admissibility of evidence is not affected by the illegality of the means by which it was obtained – continuing the tradition of English common law. If the evidence was “material, relevant and competent”, it was admissible in court.
Week v. United States (1914) Weeks was arrested for using the mail to transport tickets for a lottery -- a federal offense. He was arrested at his place of business, and a search was done of his home and business by federal officers without a warrant. The U. S. Supreme Court overturned Weeks’ conviction, ruling that evidence illegally seized by federal law enforcement officers is not admissible in federal criminal prosecutions
Important note: The decision in Weeks created the “Silver Platter doctrine” in which state officers, who were not bound by this ruling, could collect evidence through unreasonable search and seizure and turn it over to the feds.
Wolf v. Colorado (1949) Police seized Dr. Wolf’s appointment book during a warrantless search and interrogated patients whose names appeared in the book. Based on this information, they arrested and charged Wolf with performing illegal abortions. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the “Exclusionary Rule” was not binding at the State level, however some states voluntarily required warrants and followed the Exclusionary Rule.
Rochin v. California (1952) Police had information that Rochin was selling narcotics, and when they forced their way into his room without a search warrant, they saw two capsules on his nightstand. When they asked Rochin about the pills, he popped them into his mouth and swallowed them. After a futile attempt to retrieve the pills, the police took Rochin to the hospital and forced him to have his stomach pumped. The pills were morphine and Rochin was arrested. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that although state courts were not bound by the Exclusionary Rule, some searches were so shocking to the conscience that the fruits of such searches should be excluded from courts. Although they threw out Rochin’s conviction, it was because his “due process” rights had been violated, and did not apply the Exclusionary Rule at the state level at this time.
Elkins v. U.S. (1960) Eliminated “Silver Platter Doctrine”. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that evidence illegally seized by state or local law enforcement officers may not be used in Federal prosecutions, regardless of how relevant or competent it was.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961) While conducting a warrantless search of Dolly Mapp’s home for a bombing suspect, police found “lewd and lascivious” books and photographs. She was arrested for possession of pornography. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that all police officers, whether federal, state or local are required to have a search warrant; if any evidence is collected in an illegal fashion, it will not be allowed in any State or Federal court.
The retreat from Mapp…
United States v. Calandra (1974) Federal agents obtained a warrant to search Calandra’s business to discover evidence of bookmaking records and gambling paraphernalia. No gambling or bookmaking stuff was found, but evidence of a loan-sharking enterprise was found. When Calandra was called to testify in front of the Grand Jury, he argued that the loansharking information was discovered without probable cause, and was therefore inadmissible. The U . S. Supreme Court ruled that Grand Jury proceedings are primarily to determine if a crime may have been committed and if there is adequate evidence against the defendant in the case to press charges. Since the Grand Jury does not determine guilt or innocence, then any evidence that the police can obtain is admissible.
United States v. Leon (1984) Acting on information provided by an informant, officers initiated a drug trafficking investigation against Leon. Based on their observations, a search warrant was prepared, reviewed by three District Attorneys and issued by a state court judge. Ensuing searches turned up large quantities of drugs, and Leon was arrested and indicted on drug charges. He moved to suppress (exclude) the evidence because he argued that the information provided to the police had been insufficient to establish probable cause. The evidence was suppressed, and Leon was acquitted. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that in this case, the officers were acting in reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate. The Exclusionary Rule was designed to control the conduct of the police, not the conduct of judges, and in Leon, the police were following proper procedures.
Massachusetts v. Sheppard (1984) Sheppard was a suspect in a murder case. The investigating officer provided affidavit to search Sheppard’s residence for the victim’s clothing and a blunt instrument. It was a Sunday, court was closed and the officer had to go to the judge’s home for issuance of the warrant. The only form available was a form for “search for controlled substances”, which the officer modified with the judge’s approval. The judge assured the officer that this warrant was valid and legal. The officer conducted the search, located the incriminating evidence and Sheppard was arrested, tried and convicted of murder. The U. S. Supreme Court upheld Sheppard’s conviction based on the same argument as Leon – the purpose of the Exclusionary Rule is to deter police misconduct, and in this case, the officer’s conduct was entirely appropriate and legal.