The Exclusionary Rule: What Is It and What Does it Mean?

6:33 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Cross Posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Mark O'Mara gives a press conference

Zimmerman lawyer Mark O'Mara

The SCOTUS created the Exclusionary Rule in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914) to prohibit the prosecution from using evidence against a defendant that federal law enforcement officials had seized from the defendant’s residence without a search warrant, a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against residential searches without a search warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate upon a finding of probable cause to believe that the defendant’s residence contained evidence of a particular crime.

At first, the rule only applied to federal law enforcement officials, not to state law enforcement officials. The SCOTUS eventually extended the rule to cover unlawful searches by state law enforcement officials via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).

The rule is not absolute, however, because a person can consent to a search of their residence, so long as their consent is obtained freely and voluntarily, not as the result of an assault, a threat or a false pretense.

The consent exception has produced a number of sub-rules to deal with situations that come up frequently where one person (e.g., a girlfriend) voluntarily consents to a search of premises they share with another and the search turns up evidence that the prosecution seeks to use against the other person (e.g., a boyfriend).

Generally speaking, these sorts of cases are decided on the basis of whether the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place where the evidence was discovered and seized. Consent to search a common area of a home is valid as to all occupants, whereas consent to search another person’s room is not valid. Similarly, consent obtained from a motel or hotel clerk to search a person’s room or from a landlord to search a tenant’s room or residence is invalid.

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