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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

What Is the Exclusionary Rule? | Understanding the Fourth Amendment

While the civil justice system (under the Federal Tort Claims Act) allows people to pursue legal action against police officers acting under the color of state law for illegal arrests and privacy invasion, the criminal justice system emphasizes the exclusion of unconstitutionally seized evidence.


Illegally seized evidence is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, as it could harm the defendant's chances of a fair trial. Sparks Law Firm has a proactive legal team with over 100 years of combined experience that has been protecting the rights of its clients against unconstitutional procedures.


Those who are facing criminal charges in Ft. Worth, Texas, should reach out to the criminal defense attorneys at Sparks Law Firm to discuss their case and learn more about their legal options. They can also advise on questions such as What is the best evidence rule in Texas?


Understanding the Fourth Amendment Rights

Understanding the Fourth Amendment Rights


The Fourth Amendment provides protection to citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. It requires federal officers to get a warrant or have probable cause before conducting a search. The warrant must describe the place the police department wants to search and the persons and things that it wishes to seize.


What Is the Exclusionary Rule?


While the Fourth Amendment makes it clear that unreasonable searches and seizures are unconstitutional, it does not provide enforcement guidelines or contain special provisions addressing the exclusion of evidence illegally acquired by law enforcement officials.


Juries often feel unsympathetic towards criminal defendants, and illegally seized evidence could make it challenging for them to seek justice, especially in cases of police misconduct.


To address the gaps in the Fourth Amendment and ensure its effective implementation, the courts decided to follow the "exclusionary rule," which strips the government of the fruits of its illegal action. It allows the defendant to file a motion to dismiss illegally seized evidence, upholding their rights and giving them a fair chance to fight at the trial.


The Origins of the Exclusionary Rule

In 1914, the US Supreme Court made significant changes to the Fourth Amendment when it announced the verdict in the Weeks v. United States case.


To understand how the exclusionary rule came about, it's essential to review the Weeks v. United States case. A criminal defendant received a conviction based on the evidence secured by a federal officer without the issuance of a warrant or probable cause.


The defendant filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, where the judge overturned the conviction and introduced the exclusionary rule.


In 1961, after the verdict in Mapp v. Ohio, the exclusionary rule became applicable across all of the states in the country. The court stated that the exclusionary rule also applies to state law, which meant that states like New York would now offer greater protection to the defendants than the federal government.


Why Was There a Need to Introduce the Exclusionary Rule?

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. However, due to the ineffectiveness of the warrant procedure, law enforcement officers and government officials would violate the rights of the citizens in the name of "justice."


At the time, the Fourth Amendment did not hold any significance in the eyes of the government when it came to prosecuting criminal defendants. The prosecutors would use the evidence retrieved from illegal searches against the defendants until the early 20th century.


To ensure the rights of the citizens and prevent police misconduct, there was a need to introduce the exclusionary rule. Under this legal principle, the defendants can challenge the admissibility of the incriminating evidence by suppressing it through a pre-trial motion.


In the event that the court allows the illegally obtained evidence by the police officers and the jury finds the defendant guilty of the crimes based on that evidence, the defendant can file a motion to suppress when pursuing an appeal.


If the defendant succeeds, they may receive another trial, as the US Supreme Court has already stated that double jeopardy principles cannot prevent the criminal defendant from seeking a new trial.


Is There an Exception to the Exclusionary Rule?

There is a general exception to the exclusionary rule known as the "Good Faith" exception. Under this legal doctrine, the Supreme and federal courts may allow some evidence recovered during an illegal search in a trial if the police officer acted in good faith.


The good faith exception came about in 1984 in the United States v. Leon case, where the police officers received a tip that two individuals were running a drug operation on their properties. This prompted the law enforcement officials to conduct a surveillance of the suspects' houses and motor vehicles.


Upon gathering relevant evidence from the surveillance, the police officers requested a warrant, which the judge granted. However, the judge found out later that the information provided by the law enforcement officials was inaccurate. The defendant requested to have the evidence dismissed, but the court stated that the state could use the evidence at trial.


According to the Chief Justice, the exclusionary rule was in place to deter police misconduct, and its purpose is not to punish the judge or a law enforcement officer for errors. Sparks Law Firm can also help with other questions like What is the honest mistake rule?


Can Criminal Defendants Challenge Illegally Seized Evidence?


Criminal defendants can challenge evidence obtained through an illegal search. However, the process is a lot more complicated than it seems.


Whether it is a state or federal court, the criminal defendant must object to the illegally seized evidence by filing a motion.


The motion should identify the evidence the defendant wishes to remove from the case and provide their reasoning. It must also state the police's conduct that led to the discovery of such evidence.


When the criminal defendant files a motion to dismiss evidence, the state has a chance to explain why the court should allow the evidence at the trial. After hearing both sides, the judge must decide whether they should allow the evidence in court.


It's crucial for the defendants to seek help from experienced Fort Worth criminal attorneys, as not all searches are illegal, and in some cases (Rakas v. Illinois), it may be important to show that the defendant had a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy.


Criminal Defense Attorneys at Sparks Law Firm Can Challenge Illegally Seized Evidence!

Criminal Defense Attorneys at Sparks Law Firm Can Challenge Illegally Seized Evidence!


Those who are facing criminal charges in Ft. Worth, Texas, should call to schedule a free consultation with experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sparks Law Firm. They can help assess the evidence and make appropriate objections or challenge the evidence obtained through an illegal search before the trial!

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