The Supreme Court Closes A Loophole For Criminals

by John Hawkins | January 15, 2009 6:50 am

Judge Roberts and the rest of the conservative justices on the Supreme Court (along with Kennedy) deserve a big pat on the back for this ruling[1],

The Supreme Court said Wednesday that evidence obtained after illegal searches or arrests based on simple police mistakes may be used to prosecute criminal defendants.

The justices split 5-4 along ideological lines to apply new limits to the court’s so-called exclusionary rule, which generally requires evidence to be suppressed if it results from a violation of a suspect’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizure.

The conservative majority acknowledged that the arrest of Bennie Dean Herring of Alabama — based on the mistaken belief that there was a warrant for his arrest — violated his constitutional rights, yet upheld his conviction on federal drug and gun charges.

Coffee County, Ala., sheriff’s deputies found amphetamines in Herring’s pockets and an unloaded gun in his truck when they conducted a search following his arrest. It turned out that the warrant from neighboring Dale County had been recalled five months earlier, but the county sheriff’s computers had not been updated.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said the evidence may be used “when police mistakes are the result of negligence such as that described here, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements.”

Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas sided with Roberts.

….In a dissent for the other four justices, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling “leaves Herring, and others like him, with no remedy for violations of their constitutional rights.”

Guess what, Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Somebody is going to get screwed in a situation like this and quite frankly, it should be the criminal.

Look at it like this: Crazy Carl the Ax Murderer chops up five people and gets pulled over by a cop. The cop mistakenly believes there is a warrant out for Carl, searches his car, and finds four heads and an arm in the trunk.

Now, what should happen next?

Should the arresting officer — or whoever screwed up the warrant — receive some sort of punishment for making a mistake? Yes. A violation of someone’s constitutional rights is a serious issue and it should be treated as such. Had the violation of the suspect’s 4th Amendment rights been deliberate, I would suggest that the person responsible be fired — at a minimum.

But, now comes the real question: should the criminal be given a get-out-of-jail free card for a crime he committed because of the policeman’s mistake? Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, “yes.” I say, “no.”

The crime that was committed in the first place and the policeman’s violation of the suspect’s rights should be treated as completely separate issues. Let me repeat that because it’s extremely important; The crime that was committed in the first place and the policeman’s violation of the suspect’s rights should be treated as completely separate issues.

But, but, but — that’s not fair! The criminal would have gotten away with it if not for the officer’s violation of his rights. Ok — but, so what? What is this, a game of tennis? “Oh, that serve got by me, but it doesn’t count because you stepped on the line!” That’s fine for sports. But, what do you say to the families of the people that Crazy Carl the Ax Murderer got a pass for killing? I’ll tell you what they’ve been saying up until now: “Sorry, he’s guilty as sin, but he’s going to walk on a technicality.”

Now, the dirt bags in question, whether they’re imaginary like Crazy Carl the Ax Murderer or real like Bennie Dean Herring, are going to be sent to jail where they belong, the 4th Amendment violations will be dealt with separately, and the interests of justice and our society will be better served for it.

  1. for this ruling:

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