Legal Evolution Of The Exclusionary Rule

1901 words - 8 pages

The Constitution of the United States was designed to protect citizens' civil rights from infringement by the government and law enforcement agencies. The Constitution guarantees that the civil liberties of the people of this country shall be respected and upheld. That fact is often considered to be common knowledge and taken for granted by the vast majority of the population. However it was not always that way. American legislation is constantly growing and developing. New rules and practices are being developed and established. The exclusionary rule is considered to be the most vital to the protection of civil rights. The exclusionary rule is represented by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and it guarantees that illegally obtained evidence shall not be used against the accused. The history of the development of the exclusionary rule is one of the most fascinating examples of American legal evolution.
The Fourth Amendment is believed to be one the cornerstones of the Constitution. It protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, sets the framework for the warrant rule, and introduces the concept of probable cause into police procedures. The significance of the Fourth Amendment is difficult to overestimate. The warrant rule initiated a giant leap forward in the progress of democracy by abolishing the "general warrant" practice and restricting the invasion of privacy that citizens can be subjected to. The police can no longer engage into "fishing expeditions" against suspicious individuals and prosecute them based on the evidence obtained in direct violation of the Constitution. However, the exclusionary rule had a long history before it could adequately protect citizens. The rule met strong opposition from police officials and even some Supreme Court Justices before it became a valid legislation capable of providing adequate protection for citizens.
Despite the overwhelming significance of the rights protected and guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, many questions and concerns existed regarding police and court procedures and practices. The most important of those questions was whether or not illegally obtained evidence could be used in courts. Before 1914, any evidence obtained by the police could be used in both Federal and State courts, regardless of any constitutional violations that might have taken place during the search and seizure of that evidence. Such practice has spawned multiple occurrences of police misconduct. Before that date, many police officers did not follow constitutional requirements. They could freely search individuals and households and seize evidence without appropriate warrants. Needless to say, that such poor performance resulted in illegal arrests and unjust prosecutions of innocent people. One of such cases had become a landmark and initiated the long process of reforms in regard to the Fourth Amendment and police conduct. The Supreme Court articulation of the exclusionary rule has come...

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