A Spectacular Non Sequitur: The Supreme Court's Contemporary Fourth Amendment Exclusionary Rule Jurisprudence
80 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2012 Last revised: 30 May 2012
Date Written: April 4, 2012
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.
Keywords: Fourth Amendment, Exclusionary Rule
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