Supreme Court considers exclusionary rule application in illegal Terry stop case

In recent posts, we’ve been looking at the exclusionary rule and its application in cases where law enforcement obtained incriminating evidence as a result of an illegal search. As we noted, there is currently a case before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the question of how to deal with the so-called exclusionary rule in a case where a police officer learned of an outstanding warrant as a result of an illegal Terry stop.

In this case, the officer stopped the criminal suspect as he left a house suspected for drug activity. The officer acknowledged that he had no reason to believe the man had committed a crime other than that he left a suspected drug house, which didn’t rise to the level of reasonable suspicion necessary to support the stop.

During the stop, though, the officer learned that there was a warrant out for the man’s arrest and proceeded to arrest him. Incident to that arrest, the officer conducted a search and ended up finding the man was carrying methamphetamine. From the standpoint of public safety, which is the concern of both the public and the government, the man had clearly done something wrong. From a criminal defense standpoint, though, the officer didn’t do his job correctly, and this harmed the integrity of the case, which is why the defendant sought to exclude the incriminating evidence from trial.

At stake in the case is the integrity of the reasonable suspicion requirement. If the court comes down in favor of law enforcement in the case, the reasonable suspicion standard, which is already relatively low, will be weakened even more.

We’ll keep an eye on this case, and will update our readers of any developments.


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