Thursday, June 15, 2006

Today's Supreme Court Decision: It's the exclsionary rule that got banged up

Well the Alito Effect is starting at the Supreme Court. Sitting in O'Connor's vacated seat, he's proving a very different and far more right wing judge. Case in point. Today's Ruling on Knock and Announce rules when serving a search warrant



The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police armed with a warrant can barge into homes and seize evidence even if they don't knock, a huge government victory that was decided by President Bush's new justices
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said Detroit police acknowledge violating that rule when they called out their presence at a man's door then went inside three seconds to five seconds later.

"Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house," Scalia wrote.

But suppressing evidence is too high of a penalty, Scalia said, for errors by police in failing to properly announce themselves


Knock and Announce, the rule at issue here, has been the rule for serving a warrant since the English common law stretching back Centuries.
However it wasn't until 1997 and Wilson V. Arkansas 514 US 927 (1997) that the US supreme Court formally recognized that the common law requirement was also part of the 4th Amendment. (Clarence Thomas of all people wrote the opinion) However the opinion recognized there would be times when knocking was not possible or wise, and declined to set any hard and fast rules.
Also in 1997, in Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385 (1997) found that there might be times when a No-knock warrant was okay, but said that this had to be considered on a case by case basis, and that blanket rules for when issuing No-knock warrants violated the Constitution.
But really what's at Stake here is FAR greater than the "knock and Announce" rule. The Court rules that the officers broke the law and the search was illegal Alito's opinion isn't attacking the "knock and Announce rule", it is taking square aim at a far more importtant part of our law: the Exclusionary Rule itself.


The Exclusionary Rule was first created for Federal Courts in1914 by Weeks v. US.232 US 383 and then expanded to the States in 1964 by Mapp v. Ohio. 367 US 643 (1961). and it says simply that Illegally obtained evidence . May NOT> be used at tiral, and that all evidence that was discovered based onthe illegally obtained evidence was similarly excluded. (Fruit of the Poisonous Tree).



The rule is absolute because the court recognized there was no other effective way to restrain police from engaging in illegal behavior and violating people's rights. (in the Mapp case for instance, officer entered a woman's home without a warrant, looking for a fugitive, searched her entire house, broke opena small locked box inthe basement and then charge her with possession of pornography)Thus, even decisive evidence, wrongly obtained, is worthless, to the police. As a result police are HIGHLY motivated to do things the right way.

However that whole "better to let 10 guilty men go free" line apparently doesn't sit well with Alito or Scalia . Therefore he basically says "eh the law could be clearer, and after all they guy's guilty so , no harm no foul" His ruling, recognizes the clear illegality of the police's action , but still allows the Evidence to be introduced. It is, I fear, the beginning of very long chipping away process that will not end well for us.

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