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Police Mistakes of Law

Wayne A. Logan

Florida State University - College of Law

October 7, 2011

Emory Law Journal, Vol. 61, 2012
FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 490

This Article addresses something that most Americans would consider a constitutional impossibility: police officers stopping or arresting individuals for lawful behavior and courts deeming such seizures reasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes, thereby precluding application of the exclusionary rule. Today, however, an increasing number of courts excuse what they consider “reasonable” police mistakes of law, typically concerning petty offenses, and permit evidence secured as a result to support prosecutions for actual yet more serious offenses (usually relating to guns or drugs). The Article surveys the important rule of law, separation of powers, and legislative accountability reasons supporting continued judicial adherence to the historic no-excuse position. In so doing it illuminates the central role that police play as interpreters - not merely enforcers - of the law, a role to date ignored by courts and commentators.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: Fourth Amendment, mistake of law, search and seizure

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Date posted: March 19, 2011 ; Last revised: November 17, 2011

Suggested Citation

Logan, Wayne A., Police Mistakes of Law (October 7, 2011). Emory Law Journal, Vol. 61, 2012; FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 490. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1785729

Contact Information

Wayne A. Logan (Contact Author)
Florida State University - College of Law ( email )
425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

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