Monday, January 26, 2009

Excluding the exclusionary rule

Here is the Register's editorial on the recent U.S. v. Herring Supreme Court decision, which decided that the exclusionary rule did not apply in the case of a guy who came in to get some personal stuff from an impounded truck. A police officer thought there might be a warrant and asked the clerk to check. No warrant in that county, but they checked a neighboring Alabama county and the database showed a warrant and they went out, pulled him over and found meth and a gun he wasn't authorized to have as a felon. Then word came from the neighboring county that the warrant had been pulled but the info not entered on the database. Thus the search was unwarranted, but the court decided not to exclude the results of the search since the error was not purposeful or aimed at Herring.

After talking to Roger Pilon at Cato, I concluded that although it was a close call, the decision was correct because the exclusionary rule is designed to guard against police misconduct and this was an honest mistake rather than outright misconduct. Herring was guilty (although of offenses that shouldn't have been crimes, but that's a different issue).

My old friend Steve Chapman disagrees.

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