by a 5-4 vote, the SCOTUS ruled today that an erroneous crime record - in this case, a warrant which had been recalled but still showed up on someone's records - was not sufficient to trigger the exclusionary rule after a search incident to arrest on that warrant revealed that the subject, a convicted felon, was carrying a firearm and drugs.MORE: See a New York Post column from Instapundit Glenn Reynolds criticizing the SCOTUS decision, declaring, "Being a 'public servant,' apparently, means being free to make the kind of mistakes that the rest of us aren't allowed. "
I have mixed feelings about the ruling. On the one hand, I feel that the exclusionary rule is an indispensable protection of our civil liberties, and I don't like to see it chipped away.
On the other hand, it's hard to argue with the Chief Justice's statement to the effect that "probable" cause is not metaphysically certain cause. As long as the officer believes in good faith that there is a valid warrant for someone's arrest, then I agree with the Chief Justice that he has "probable cause" to effect the arrest, which in turn triggers the right to search the subject incident to that arrest.
But in a state in which one out of every nine people has an outstanding warrant, and in a state with a demonstrated history of doing such a poor job of keeping accurate crime records, you'd have to say that in Texas at least, the exclusionary rule has just taken a shot to the gut. And the state has been given no inducement to clean up its act.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Exclusionary rule takes a gut shot
Before I had a chance to post on a SCOTUS decision issued today (see the New York Times coverage) that eliminates the exclusionary rule when civil liberties are violated accidentally because of database errors, Texas State Trooper Association attorney Don Dickson left a comment on a related Grits post that essentially sums up my concerns: