This week the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in an important case, Herring v. United States, involving our rights under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. As a general rule, the police cannot use evidence against us if the evidence was obtained illegally. This is known as the exclusionary rule. Basically, if the cops obtain evidence illegally, the evidence is thrown out and can’t be used in court.
In recent years, the Supreme Court has signaled its intent to chip away at the Fourth Amendment and so this week’s decision comes as no surprise, at least to me. In Herring, the Supremes held that if the police mistakenly arrest you and find evidence of anything, the evidence can be used against you even though the arrest was illegal. In other words, even thought the evidence was obtained illegally, no exclusionary rule applies. Of course some people may think this sounds like a good idea. I mean the cops found something bad, so who cares how they found it, right? Sounds like the Court is closing the gap on “technicalities” used by dirty defense lawyers to get criminals off. I couldn’t disagree more.
I, for one, refuse to consider our constitutional rights as mere “technicalities” or “conveniences.” As an attorney, I am sworn to uphold and defend our constitution. I will continue to do so, albeit I will have to become more innovative in fighting the abuses of the government. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to stand as a wall against tyranny and government abuse. By throwing away these protections, we move one step closer to a police state where the government can do whatever it wants and we can do nothing.
In short, the Supreme Court’s decision in Herring gives more power to the executive branch (i.e., police, prosecutors, district attorneys, etc.) at the expense of ordinary citizens. Remember, if one group becomes more powerful, another becomes less. So who do you think lost out here?