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A Spectacular Non Sequitur: The Supreme Court's Contemporary Fourth Amendment Exclusionary Rule Jurisprudence


David C. Gray


University of Maryland-Francis King Carey School of Law

April 4, 2012

American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1, Forthcoming
U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-21

Abstract:     
Much of the Supreme Court’s contemporary Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule jurisprudence is constructed upon an analytic mistake that H.L.A. Hart described in another context as a “spectacular non sequitur.” That path to irrelevance is paved by the Court’s recent insistence that the sole justification for excluding evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment is the prospect of deterring law enforcement officers. This deterrence-only approach ignores or rejects more principled justifications that inspired the rule at its genesis and have sustained it through the majority of its history and development. More worrisome, however, is the conceptual insufficiency of deterrence considerations alone to justify core components of the Court’s Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule doctrine, including the good faith exception, the cause requirement, and the requirement to show standing. That conceptual deficit has produced an opaque body of doctrine that is often incoherent and always speculative and unpredictable. Faced with these results, the Court has two options. First, it can abandon almost a century of doctrine in favor of a dramatically expanded exclusionary rule cut loose from general rules and exceptions; or, second, the Court can preserve the bulk of its Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule jurisprudence by adopting a hybrid theory of the exclusionary rule that embraces retributive principles. This Article argues for the latter course and explores the consequences. Principal among them is that the Court must accept the exclusionary rule as the natural and necessary sanction for Fourth Amendment violations rather than a contingently justified judicial doctrine. Although some Justices and their academic supporters may think this a steep price to pay, this Article argues that the costs are more than justified by the rewards of doctrinal coherence, added clarity, and predictability.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 80

Keywords: Fourth Amendment, Exclusionary Rule

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Date posted: April 5, 2012 ; Last revised: May 30, 2012

Suggested Citation

Gray, David C., A Spectacular Non Sequitur: The Supreme Court's Contemporary Fourth Amendment Exclusionary Rule Jurisprudence (April 4, 2012). American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1, Forthcoming; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-21. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2034385

Contact Information

David C. Gray (Contact Author)
University of Maryland-Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )
500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States
410-706-5986 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.umaryland.edu/faculty/profiles/faculty.html?facultynum=598
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