Exclusionary Rule

Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2012 by Farida Palupi

The United States Constitution has bestowed upon its citizens certain inalienable rights. Being a democracy, the most important of these rights is the right to freedom. As per law, no individual's freedom to speak his mind, follow his own religion, do what he wants to when he wants to do it, can be compromised by another. No one has the right to challenge or misuse the freedom handed to him by the US Constitution. Not even the law enforcement officials themselves. Thus was born the Exclusionary Rule. This rule protects the right of even people who are on trial for criminal activities. Read further to know more about the exclusionary rule definition and its exceptions.

What is the Exclusionary Rule?

As per the United States law, "The principle based on federal Constitutional Law that evidence illegally seized by law enforcement officers in violation of a suspect's right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures cannot be used against the suspect in a criminal prosecution" is called the Exclusionary Rule.

If you go through law terms pertaining to the United States, you will know that 'evidence' is the word used for any tangible or intangible information used to either prove true or false, a particular allegation made in a court of law. Till the 1900's, the practice of using any type of evidence, procured by any means by the law enforcement officials was admissible in court. However, with the Exclusionary Rule, this became difficult. It was noticed that the law enforcers were misusing the power that the government had meted out to them, in order to gather evidence against defendants of criminal cases. Hence, the Exclusionary Rule was drafted in order to safeguard the rights of the defendant as per the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects any citizen from unreasonable searches and seizures by anyone serving in the government. As per this rule, any evidence that is gathered by thwarting the Fourth Amendment rights of the defendant, is inadmissible in court. For instance, if police officers search the house of the defendant, in the absence of the defendant and without a warrant, then any evidence gathered by them in the course of the search will be inadmissible in court and excluded from the trial. However, if the warrant is issued, but has lost its validity by the time the house was searched, in the absence of the defendant, then the evidence is admissible, provided the official copy of the warrant has an affidavit attached to it, proclaiming that it is a valid warrant.

Exceptions to the Rule

You may think that this is a very strange law and that people who commit a crime should not be given such privileges. But as the old adage goes, innocent until proven guilty, the defendant cannot be declared guilty by anyone but a court magistrate. There are some exceptions to the exclusionary rule that are in conformity with the bill of rights given by the Constitution. They are as follows.

Independent Source Doctrine: This exception states that if during the course of the investigation, the law enforcers come across some evidence through a source 'independent' of the investigating team, and then uses this evidence as grounds to return with a warrant to seize the official records of the same evidence, then this evidence is permitted to be used during the trial.

Inevitable Discovery Doctrine: According to this exception, the evidence is seized twice. Out of these two times, the actual physical seizing happens only one time. Meaning, if a piece of evidence is seized illegally, but it is proved that the same evidence would have been seized in the near future, because the evidence was found in the vicinity of the area under investigation, then this evidence is allowed to be used. For example, a source informs a team of investigators that they can find documents proving a financial fraud committed by Mr. X in his desk drawer. The team seizes the documents without a warrant. But they prove to the court that since Mr. X was suspected of fraud, his desk would eventually have been checked and the documents would have been discovered anyway, but they did so to prevent the documents from being hidden or destroyed, then the documents can be used as evidence against Mr. X.

Good Faith: According to this exception, if the police has received a warrant and acted upon it to obtain evidence against the defendant, but later it is discovered that the warrant was faulty or defective in some manner, the evidence is still admissible. This is because the fault was an 'honest mistake' and the official acted within reason and in good faith. He did not in any way violate the constitutional rights of the defendant and so the evidence seized by him can be used in court.

The Exclusionary Rule came into practice only in the 1900's after many cases showed that the level of misuse and misconduct of government authority to obtain evidence in criminal cases was steadily on the rise. The exceptions were introduced in 1984 and there have been suitable amendments made to the rule and its exceptions from time to time. 

Law Enforcement Facts

Posted on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 by Farida Palupi

Law enforcement is a broad term which encompasses any setup that is put in place to promote adherence to law - in an organized manner, by identifying and punishing people who violate the rules and norms of the society. Simply put, a law enforcement officer is a person who enforces the law of the land. Even though the term entails the court system and correctional facilities for the role they play in the criminal justice system as well, it is more often used to refer to those government agencies which directly engage in patrolling and/or surveillance to detect and dissuade various criminal acts or investigate criminal cases and apprehend those who violate the law.

Each nation has its own law enforcement agencies, and every state or province of that nation may have a law enforcement agency of its own. Similarly, there can be more than one law enforcement agency within the nation or state which may be dealing with a specific type of crime such as economic offenses, drug related crimes, etc. The term 'police' refers to those individuals who work to enforce the law, protect life and property of the people and reduce civil disorder in the society. It is important to note that law enforcement is just a part of the broad concept of policing, and not the concept as a whole.

Law Enforcement in the United States of America

As in most nations of the world, even in the United States the term 'law enforcement' specifically refers to those agencies which detect, dissuade and investigate criminal acts, and apprehend the offenders. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the principal government investigation agency in the United States of America. It looks into matters concerning violation of Federal Law within the national territory. At the same time, it is also entitled the task of conducting national security investigations.

Other Federal agencies which can be included in the category of law enforcement agencies in the United States of America include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - which looks into the matters involving illegal drugs, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives - which investigates the violations of Federal firearms and explosives laws as well as alcohol and tobacco tax regulations. Other law enforcement agencies which come under the purview of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, etc. These agencies along with courts and prisons form the criminal justice system of the United States.

Interesting Law Enforcement Facts

Law enforcement in the United States is carried out by different agencies at many different levels. While the Federal law enforcement agencies look into the matters which affect the nation as a whole, the authority of the state police and county police is mostly restricted to their jurisdiction. As of today, the number of sworn-in law enforcement officers serving in various agencies in the United States of America stands at 900,000. Given below are more of such interesting facts about law enforcement agencies and officers with reference to the United States.

The history of law enforcement in the United States can be traced back to the establishment of New York City Sheriff's Office in 1626.
While the law enforcement officers worked without a salary on a part-time basis initially, the first full-time, paid officers were hired by the City of Boston in 1712.
On 24th September, 1789, the first post of Federal law enforcement officer - the Marshal, was created by the U.S. Congress. A total of 13 U.S. Marshals were appointed by President George Washington himself.
In 1835, the first proper law enforcement agency - i.e. a full-fledged unit, was established in the state of Texas. The oldest law enforcement agency of the United States, it was eventually named the Texas Rangers.
The first recorded death of an officer in the line of duty came in 1791, and since then as many as 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) in Washington, D.C., is a memorial honoring the officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
According to the preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), 162 officers died in the line of duty in 2010.
Statistical data suggests that somewhere around 56,000 law enforcement officers are assaulted in the United States every single year; wherein somewhere around 16,000 are left seriously injured.
On 9/11 - which was the deadliest day for the entire world, and not just the United States, 72 law enforcement officers died responding to the terrorist attacks.
The Supreme Court of the United States Police is perhaps the smallest U.S. federal law enforcement agency with a total strength of 145 sworn-in officers.

As you see for yourself, being a law enforcement officer is not at all an easy task. If it is safe for us to move around freely in society today, it is only because these uniformed officers stand between us and the bad elements in the society - and that highlights the importance of law enforcement very well. There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that these officers deserve a lot more respect that what they get.