Tag Archives | Good Faith Exception for Changing Law

The Good Faith Exception and Changing Law: The Context of the Good Faith Exception

This is my first post in a planned series of posts on why the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply when a police officer conducts a search that is lawful when it occurs that is later ruled unlawful before the conviction is final. This issue is being litigated all over the country right now thanks to a clash of two recent Fourth Amendment cases, Herring v. United States, — U.S. — (2009) and Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. ___ (2009). Herring has language suggesting a broad approach to the good faith exception, while Gant ruled a common and widely-accepted law enforcement practice unconstitutional. The combination of the two cases raises a question: Should the exclusionary rule apply for the many violations that occurred before Gant was handed down, or does the good faith exception apply so the evidence is admitted? Here is post #1: The Context of the Good-Faith Exception.

To understand whether the good faith exception should apply in light of changing law, it is essential to have a broad understanding of the established limits of the exclusionary rule. Whenever the government conducts an unconstitutional search, and that search leads to evidence, whether the exclusionary remedy applies depends on three basic questions:

1. Is there sufficient connection between the constitutional violation and the discovery of the evidence to warrant suppression?
2. Is the defendant one of the individuals who is permitted to assert the challenge?
3. Is this the kind of constitutional violation that supports suppression?

The exclusionary rule applies only if the answer to all three questions is “yes.” Each of these three questions has its own set of doctrinal boxes, but in every box the doctrines are framed by one overriding pragmatic question: How far does the exclusionary rule need to [...]

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