United States v. Leon 468 U.S. 897 (1984)
In August 1981, Burbank police received information from a confidential informant about the drug activity of two suspects. Based on that information, the police initiated an extensive surveillance of the residence and persons mentioned by the informant as being involved. Police surveillance revealed a number of others persons, most with criminal records, entering and leaving the surveilled residence with “packages” of varying sizes. A police learned that one of the persons seen at the residence had listed an Alberto Leon as his employer. A check of Leon’s record revealed that he had been arrested in the past on drug charges.
Using the information gathered during their surveillance operations, in September 1981, the police applied for a search warrant for the homes, automobiles and persons, including Alberto Leon, who had been under observation. The warrant was subsequently granted and the police search of the Leon’s home revealed a large quantity of drugs. Leon was charged with conspiracy to possess and sell cocaine.
At his trial, Leon’s attorney petitioned the court to exclude the evidence of drugs based on the argument that the search warrant was defective. The trial court judge agreed, finding that the original information provided by the informant in August, lacked the required probable cause to that would allow a search warrant to be issued for Leon’s residence to go forward. The judge also found that the informant had failed to provide and evidence that he was reliable or that the information he supplied was credible. The trial court judge, moreover, dismissed that state’s argument that whatever the defects of the search warrant, the police had acted on good faith reliance of it being valid when the search was made and so any evidence should be admissible.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed the trial court decision and the state filed a petition of certiorari with the United State Supreme Court just on the question of whether there was an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule when police obtain evidence through a search warrant issued by a judge and believed to be valid but later found to be unsupported by probable cause. The Court agreed to hear the case and scheduled arguments for January 17, 1984. The Court rendered its decision on July 5, 1984.
In a 6-3 vote, the Court found that there was a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule and that police investigations should not be punished following an otherwise invalid search warrant by finding already obtained evidence as a result of that search warrant inadmissible.
Writing for the majority, Justice Byron White argued that the exclusionary rule, unlike the Fourth Amendment itself, was not a right bestowed on all defendants but rather a remedy to correct police misconduct. As a consequence, if a police officer has no information to the contrary that a search warrant is valid and acts within the scope of that search warrant then there is no misconduct to correct and no need to apply the exclusionary rule to evidence obtained. Under White’s analysis, rather than finding fault the with the police officer who executed the warrant, blame should be placed on the judge that certified the warrant in the first place. According to White, it is the judge’s responsibility to “make sure the facts on which the search warrant will be based on are accurate and supported by probable cause.” But applying the exclusionary rule to mistakes by a judge would be useless in forcing judges to be more careful and unhelpful in promoting police compliance with the Constitution. White did say, however, that the application of the exclusionary rule would be valid if it were shown that police knowingly or recklessly supplied information to the judge in order to obtain a search warrant.
In his dissent, Justice William Brennan, argued that scope of the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule covers the initial illegal invasion of privacy as well as any secondary invasions of privacy that are a result of the original. Moreover, according to Brennan, the Court’s “good faith” standard would: (1) eliminate the need for judges to perform anything but the most simple analysis of information provided to make a determination of whether to issue a warrant and (2) ensure that police provide the minimum amount of information necessary to get a warrant issued.
Dunaway v. New York 442 U.S. 200 (1979)
Rochester, New York police detectives carrying out an investigation of the murder of a local pizza restaurant owner, interviewed an anonymous informant whom police believed knew the identity of the murderer. Through questioning the informant, although police were able to learn that someone named Dunaway has been involved in the crime, the information provided by the informant was not enough to justify an arrest warrant being issued.
The detectives nonetheless ordered a street unit to pick Dunaway up for questioning. Police officers located Dunaway at his neighbor’s house and although he was told that he was not under arrest, police officers made it clear that he would be physically restrained if he attempted to leave. Dunaway was subsequently transported to the police station and placed in an interrogation room. Detectives then informed of his rights to remain silent and have an attorney present but Dunaway eventually waived those rights and not only confessed to committing the murder but also produced a number of sketches as further demonstrative evidence of his involvement.
At trial, his attorney asked the court to suppress the confession and sketches based on the argument that police, in obtaining the evidence, had violated his Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. The trial court disagreed and allowed the state to use the confession and sketches. Dunaway, based largely on that evidence, was convicted of murder. Dunaway appealed but the New York Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s conviction. Dunaway then filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court on the question of whether police can detain and interrogate a suspect without probable cause to arrest and is evidence obtained as a result of the detention or interrogation admissible in court. The Court agreed to hear the case and scheduled arguments for March 21, 1979. The Court rendered its decision on June 5, 1979.
In a 6-2 vote, the Court found that Dunaway’s detention and interrogation did indeed violate the Fourth Amendment. More specifically, the Court found that while police could legally search and question Dunaway when they first came into contact with him at his neighbor’s house, if no further information was found at that time linking him to the commission of the murder or warrant further investigation, then the police officers had to “disengage” and leave the scene. In this case, however, the Court held the police officers not only did not “disengage” but rather detained him, transported him to the station then interrogated him.
Writing for the majority, Justice William Brennan argued that when police officer’s made it clear that Dunaway would not be able to walk away from their questioning at the neighbor’s house, he was for all intents and purposes under arrests even though he was told that he was not. Dunaway’s arrest, according to Brennan, was further effectuated by his transport to the police station and placement in an interrogation room and should have first been preceded by a finding of probable cause linking Dunaway the murder or involvement in the murder. Brennan distinguished Dunaway’s detention from what is known as a “stop and frisk intrusion” which police can make using a lower reasonable suspicion standard simply to check if a suspect has weapons or if the suspect poses a threat danger to police.
Brennan dismissed the argument that informing Dunaway of his rights to remain silent and have an attorney present was enough to correct his illegal seizure and thereby make his confessions admissible at trial. Brennan said that while informing Dunaway of his rights satisfied the law in regards to the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, for Fourth Amendment purposes, judges need to determine if the confession was the result of an “exploitation” of the illegal arrest. In this case, Dunaway was arrested without probably cause in the hopes that he would reveal information or “something would turn up” that incriminated him, The court found that this is exactly what happened and so as a result of the illegal arrest, the confession was illegally obtained and therefore inadmissible at trial.
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United States v. Leon 468 U.S. 897 (1984)
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