United States v. Havens: Impeachment by Illegally Obtained Evidence

Jean M. Eggen

Widener University - Delaware Campus


Syracuse Law Review, Vol. 32, p. 637, 1981

In a series of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court developed an impeachment exception to the exclusionary rule, whereby evidence obtained in violation of either the fourth or fifth amendment was admissible to impeach the direct testimony of a defendant who has taken the witness stand in his or her own defense. In United States v. Havens, decided in 1980, the Supreme Court extended the impeachment exception to the defendant’s cross-examination testimony. Havens raised a number of crucial issues, including the impact of the impeachment exception on the defendant’s right to testify in his or her own defense. Most importantly, the case raised the question whether the exclusionary rule remains a viable means of protecting fourth amendment rights. This article explores the implications of the Havens case on criminal defendants and on the criminal justice system in general. It argues that, on balance, the Supreme Court should move in the direction of a narrowly circumscribed impeachment exception, rather than the open door Havens provides for the introduction of illegally obtained evidence.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: exclusionary rule, evidence, impeachment, fourth amendment

JEL Classification: K41

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Date posted: October 22, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Eggen, Jean M., United States v. Havens: Impeachment by Illegally Obtained Evidence (1981). Syracuse Law Review, Vol. 32, p. 637, 1981. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1947034

Contact Information

Jean Macchiaroli Eggen (Contact Author)
Widener University - Delaware Campus ( email )
PO Box 7474
Wilmington, DE 19803
United States
(302) 477-2155 (Phone)
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