Illegal Evidence

WASHINGTON – 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.

Many libertarians have posted this news and are up in arms against this judgment. The bad news of course is that this will certainly lead to more people being convicted for drug related offenses, and to more warrantless searches which will be disguised as mistakes by the police. I think however that this is a good ruling. To go further, I think the evidence should be kept even if the warrantless search was not a mistake but a deliberate violation of rights.

John and Jack are supected of murder, but Jack has a good alibi and only John is tried. John is about to be convicted when Robert, a last minute witness testifies that he found the crime weapon in Jack's drawer. Robert is a small-time burglar, he broke into Jack's house to steal his huge TV. While looking for cash in the drawers, he found a gun and a bloody hankerchief. Since he read about John and Jack in the press he decided to do the right thing: help innocent John and get Jack convicted. Should we ignore the evidence on the ground that it was obtained as the proceed of a crime? Of course not, this would be absurd.

A cop making a warrantless search is commiting a crime, and he should be punished harshly for doing so. However, this does not mean that the evidence should be discarded. Evidence is information and information is neutral, it cannot be tainted with crime. The same goes for intellectual property, if I obtain a copyrighted work from someone, at least one crime was committed : the person who initially obtained the work (the information) broke the agreement not to disclose it to a third party. However, other people are not tied by this agreement and are not committing a crime by using and disclosing the information. Similarly, a judge or a jury has no reason to discard a piece of information. The fact that it was obtained as a proceed of a crime may cast doubt on the veractiy of the information, but it doesn't mean it should be ignored.

If one is concerned about warrantless searches, one should seek harsher punishment when they happen intentionally, or compensation for victims when they are conducted by mistake. If one is concerned with unjust drug law, one should also try to fight these.

However, saying evidence should be discarded is a poor consequentialist decision that violates people's right over their own brain, over the information they should to take into account.

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Studied law where?

>A cop making a warrantless search is commiting a crime, and he should be punished harshly for doing so.

There are several permissible reasons for making a search without a warrant, such as a pat down for weapons on traffic stop. The Constitution, as written, only protects one's home. The rest is case law extensions.

> However, this does not mean that the evidence should be discarded.

You don't watch "Law and Order?" A police officer wants to search a house. He uses a phone booth in his district to phone 911 and state that at XXX address it sounds like a woman is being beaten. Get gets the call and kicks in the door. Anything in plain view is admissible.

I did not study law. When I

I did not study law. When I say "crime", I mean aggression against someone's property or life, I do not mean, crime as defined by the US government.

I agree in principle.

I agree in principle. However, I think eliminating the exclusionary rule would only be safe in a society where police who engage in misconduct are consistently and severely punished, i.e. not ours. As it is, the threat of having illegally obtained evidence excluded is probably the only meaningful deterrent against illegal searches that police face.