The Exclusionary Rule in the United States
Debate Rounds (3)
The exclusionary rule is a highly contentious issue in the American judicial system. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the exclusionary rule, the exclusionary rule is the rule that states that illegally obtained evidence may not be used in a trial, even if it may have led to a defendant's conviction.
The rule has been consistently interpreted and re-interpreted by the Supreme Court. In "Wolf v. Colorado" (1949), the court held that the states did not have to apply the rule. However, this ruling was explicitly overruled in landmark case "Mapp v. Ohio" (1961), which incorporated the rule to the states (1).
Since then, the court has created a "good faith exception" to the exclusionary rule, which allows evidence to be used in a trial if it was found "in good faith". The exception was found in "Leon v. United States" (1984) (2).
Anyway, I am arguing in favor of the exclusionary rule, as opposed to its alternative, which is to allow illegal evidence in a trial, and then punish officers who found illegal evidence separatly. The exclusionary rule is a more effective way of maximizing a defendant's constitutional liberties.
Contention 1: The exclusionary rule destroys all incentive for police officers to obtain illegal evidence.
The exclusionary rule prohibits evidence that is found against a defendant's constituional rights. As such, a police officer is wasting his time if he makes any attempt to violate a defendant's rights in a search for evidence. Even under a system where police officer's are punished for violating a defendant's rights, policemen desperate for a conviction may risk an illegal search. The exclusionary rule is the most effective way to eliminate any such misconduct.
Contention 2: The exclusionary rule (as opposed to the other method) has the most respect for the constituional rights.
The constitution of the United States is largely based on rights. As Jefferson famously writes in the declaration of independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (3).
Amendment IV of the Bill of Rights garauantees that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." (4).
The alternative to the exclusionary rule allows someones to be "deprived of life, liberty, or property" without full respect for those rights supposedly garauanteed in the Constitution. Choosing the alternative to the exclusionary rule allows someone to be poisoned by the "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" (5). To ignore the exclusionary rule is to ignore those individual liberties promised by the "the Supreme law of the land" (6). The exclusionary rule is the best way to respect these rights.
Anyway, that's all I've got for the time being, but I'm sure that I'll have plenty more to say when someone accepts this.
Thanks to whoever accepts.
It is worth noting that, within the scope of this debate, someone trying to obtain evidence illegally will ALWAYS be caught. The exclusionary rule can only be applied to evidence that is known to have been obtained illegally.
Through responding to my opponent's case, my own position will become clear.
Contention 1: The exclusionary rule destroys all incentive for police officers to obtain illegal evidence.
While potentially helpful, this is not necessary. Those who illegally obtained the evidence would not go unpunished; lawful punishment is enough of a disincentive in every other scenario, so why not in court cases? The exclusionary rule may provide additional effectiveness, but I contend that it is not really necessary. In a scenario in which someone is willing to illegally obtain evidence, the reasons surely must be significant.
Contention 2: The exclusionary rule (as opposed to the other method) has the most respect for the constitutional rights.
This is a much more interesting contention, but is still deeply flawed. The alternative to the exclusionary rule (let's call in the inclusionary rule) does not violate the fourth amendment. Even under the inclusionary rule, unwarranted search and seizure is prohibited by law and will be accordingly punished. People's freedoms are still just as protected. After all, our society got along just fine without the exclusionary rule for over a hundred years (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...).
But at the same time, the exclusionary rule is counterproductive to a court case. An estimated 55,000 criminals are released each year  simply because of the exclusionary rule. The judicial system has a responsibility to protect society against these criminals, and by enforcing the exclusionary rule it is failing to do so. The crime of illegally obtaining evidence will still be rightfully punished; but to ignore any evidence, legally obtained or not, is irresponsible.
 Edwin Meese III, "A Rule Excluding Justice," New York Times, April 15, 1983. http://www.nytimes.com...
My opponent believes that, for the sake of this debate, we should assume that police offending constitutional rights will ALWAYS be caught and punished. Unfortunatly, I must reject this rule on the basis that it is not realistic to assume that all instances of police misconduct will be punished. Justice does not prevail everywhere else, why should it here?
Contention 1: Disincentive for misconduct
In response to my first contention, my opponent stated that conventional punishments for misconduct would act as a sufficient detterent to prevent it. This is not true--allowing illegal evidence still provides a certain degree of incentive for police to violate a defendant's rights. As stated above, it is unrealistic to assume that violators of a defendent's rights will be caught in each and every situation. However, even in a situtation where violators are punished frequently, police officers may still choose to act illegally. Police officers see themselves are the arbiters of justice. They may be willing to risk sacrificing themselves for what they see as the cause of justice. The movie "Training Day" with Denzel Washington is a good example of how this can happen (I know it sounds silly to cite a movie, but bear with me here) (1).
Movies aside, a more serious example comes down from the California Supreme Court. In "People v. Cahan", the California Supreme Court instated the exclusionary rule because "'other remedies have completely failed' to stop lawless police action." (2). This was an explicit overruling of an earlier decision, which stated that California did not require the rule.
The bottom line is, the exclusionary rule is by far the safest way of keeping the police honest. We lawfully punish people for crimes like murder and bank robbery, yet those crimes continue to happen. If we can't expect lawful punishment to bring an end to conventional crime, why should we expect it to eliminate police misconduct?
Contention 2: Respect for constituional rights
My opponent's refutation to this contention is that the inclusionary rule does not violate the constitution because misconduct by officers remains punished. This is not so.
The fourth amendment reads:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Suppose that the police break into my house (without a warrant), search through my stuff, and plant a bug in my house. All of this is in violation of the constituion. The police later use this bug to incriminate me with something I said in the privacy of my home--where the police should not be without a warrant. This evidence is used at my trial, and I am sent to prison. According to my opponent, my constitutional rights have not been violated, as long as the police officer is punished for misconduct.
Let's think about that for a second: The constitution says that people are "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures". The founder's included this to protect my individual rights. My opponent, however, believes that it is okay for the police to blatantly ignore my rights, as long as they are punished afterwards--even though punishing them ex post facto doesn't help my rights at all. Essentially, the constitution has lied to me. A lack of respect for the security of my person and house has sent me to jail. This cannot be fixed by punishing any number of police officers.
Punishing police officers after people have already had their rights violated does NOT make the 'inclusionary' rule constitutionally acceptable. The punishing of a police officer does nothing for the individual whose rights have already been violated. It's great it you punish the cop that lied to me--but it doesn't fix my violated rights.
The fact of the matter is that the exclusionary rule is the only way to fully respect an individuals rights. Punishing a police officer after the fact does not fix a consitutional rights violation.
My opponent cites the fact that "our society got along just fine without the exclusionary rule for over a hundred years". This doesn't justfity the violation of a defendent's rights. Just because we got along fine with segreation for a hundred years doesn't mean that it's okay to racially segregate.
Finally, my opponent comes up with a very utilitarian argument--that the exclusionary rule is compromising our collective safety and making it harder to punish criminals. This may be true, but it does not make the rule any less necessary or prevalent. The rule is a necessary measure to protect an individuals consitutional rights. A constitutional right may not be compromised in any situation. The constitution is, after all, the "supreme law of the land". Sometimes, the need to protect individual liberties trumps the need for safety. Ben Franklin puts it succinctly when he said:
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. "
The fact is, a right is a right. A right is unique in that it cannot be violated under any circumstances, not for democracy, nor for safety, not for money or power or wealth. When Thomas Jefferson famously penned those words, that we have "unalienable" rights, he meant "unalienable". The exclusionary rule is undoubedtly the most effective way to protect these rights, guaranteed by the constitution.
In the words of Supreme Court in "Weeks v. United States" (3):
"If letters and private documents can thus be seized and held and used in evidence against a citizen accused of an offense, the protection of the Fourth Amendment declaring his right to be secure against such searches and seizures is of no value, and, so far as those thus placed are concerned, might as well be stricken from the Constitution."
-The only way that we can really be sure to keep the police honest is with the exclusionary rule.
-Any method other than the exclusionary rule allows for a situation in which a citizen can be lied to by their Constitution.
-Collectivist arguments for safety do not trump the need to protect those rights which are "unalienable".
Thank you and thanks to my opponent once again for accepting.
What I meant is that in every scenario in which it is known that illegal evidence was obtained, it is also possible to punish the wrongdoers for obtaining illegal evidence. So in any situation in which the law is unable to enforce the repercussions of obtaining illegal evidence, it is also unable to enforce the exclusionary rule.
Contention 1: Disincentive for Misconduct
A. Individuals are still legally protected without the exclusionary rule. And from a broader perspective, they are also socially protected. Police will only investigate a home if they have a good cause; that cause may not be legal, but in the mind of the policeman it must nonetheless be strong. If police are willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause of justice, then it is an acceptable sacrifice.
B. The exclusionary rule can lead to the unjust arrest of well-intentioned law officers. As seen in Herring v. United States (http://www.supremecourtus.gov...) sometimes police will, with good intentions, breach the Fourth Amendment. The Exclusionary Rule can lead to the prosecution of fair and just law officers.
C. It is impossible to enforce the exclusionary rule if the evidence is not known to have been obtained illegally. In these cases, the police can get away with breaking the fourth amendment, and so the exclusionary rule has failed to protect the citizens' supposed rights.
D. "'[O]ther remedies have completely failed' to stop lawless police action." The original source has no evidence that other remedies have failed at all, much less "completely failed".
My opponent's concluding sentence is an absurd proposition. Should we simply end all social repercussions and allow murderers to run free? The only perfect way to prevent crime is to execute each and every citizen. But this is absurd. Compromises must be made. Lawful punishment is just such a compromise; the exclusionary rule is not.
Contention 2: Respect for Constitutional Rights
A. When law-abiding citizens commit a crime, some of their rights are revoked. Since so frequently the search and seizure uncovers legitimate evidence, such as in Herring v. United States (http://en.wikipedia.org...), the breach of the fourth amendment is usually no real breach at all, as the citizen in question was already a criminal.
B. My opponent is basing his contention upon a flawed interpretation of the fourth amendment. An individual's temporary privacy is in the majority of cases less important than catching a harmful criminal; therefore, sacrificing a person's privacy is not "unreasonable". (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...) The core purpose of the fourth amendment is to ensure that any intrusions of privacy "are not the random or arbitrary acts of government agents." (http://www.lectlaw.com...) As long as law officers meet the same legal repercussions that anyone else would meet, the spirit of the law is protected. Your rights are still secure.
C. My opponent asserts that "the exclusionary rule is the only way to fully respect an individuals [sic] rights." I disagree with the following logic, but for the sake of argument I will accept it. By my opponent's logic, since the exclusionary rule is not guaranteed to work, it does not respect individuals' rights and is therefore not an acceptable rule.
D. "Just because we got along fine with segreation for a hundred years doesn't mean that it's okay to racially segregate."
We got along fine? Ask any African American, and I bet you they'll disagree.
E. "The rule is a necessary measure to protect an individuals consitutional rights."
We have the right not to be murdered or burglarized. Since we are participants in the social contract (http://www.iep.utm.edu...), it is the government's job to protect these rights. Additionally, the government not only must protect your rights, but must protect everyone's. The best way to do this is to get rid of the exclusionary rule. When it is a choice between allowing a minor and temporary invasion of privacy and allowing criminals to rob us of our possible life, liberty and property 55,000 times a year or more, the choice becomes clear.
F. "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
It is impossible to be completely free; and there is a point at which one is so unsafe that there may not be any liberty left to have. Some liberty must be sacrificed in order to remain safe. A compromise must be made.
I thank my opponent for participating in this debate that is possibly the most challenging I've ever done. (I didn't realize this would be Policy! XD )
I also appreciate my opponent's lettering of specific points, as it does a great deal to simplify things.
Even with my opponent's modification of the 'always caught' rule from before, the exclusionary rule is still a good deal more necessary than the 'inclusionary rule'.
Contention 1: Disincentive for Misconduct
A. Individuals might be safer without the rule, but their constitutional rights are not fully protected under the rule. As stated before, those rights explicitly garaunteed in the constitution are unalienable, unless otherwise specified. The notion that we can sacrifice those rights found in "the supreme law of the land" (the constitution) for a policeman's personal subjective idea of justice is unacceptable. We cannot rest people's liberties with subjective ideas that could potentially subvert the constitution.
B. While the rule may occasionally lead the arrest of a well-intentioned officer, many officers are now protected under the 'good faith' exception created in "United States v. Leon" (1). This allows police officers to use illegal evidence if the evidence is only illegal because of a technical error with the warrant. This exception helps prevent excess punishment of police officers, but it still forces police officers to believe the warrant is real if they wish to use the evidence at trial. In the "Herring" case, the police did not know they were breaching the amendment, so the good faith exception protects them. That said, if a police officer fakes a warrant 'with good intentions', he most likely deserves prosecution.
C. It is true that no one is perfect, but the alternative to the exclusionary rule (the inclusionary rule, as we've called it) faces the same problem--we can't always know if the police officer comitted misconduct. The exclusionary rule remains superior.
D. Ever since the Court's "Mapp" decision, which applied the exclusionary rule to the states, there are been a dramatic increase in search warrants (2). Given the scarcity of warrants prior to "Mapp", it is clear that the police were not fully complying with a defendant's rights with other methods.
My final sentence in the last round was simply an example to try and show that conventional punishment is not an absolute detterent.
Contention 2: Respect for Constitutional Rights
A. It is true that some a person's rights are revoked when they are found guilty of a crime. However, rights are not revoked UNTIL A DEFENDENT HAS BEEN INDICTED OR CONVICTED of a crime by a grand jury/jury. In the United States, a person is "innocent until proven guilty" (3). The fifth amendment to the constitution states that "No person shall be.......deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" (4). It is clear from these principles that a person is not considered a criminal and therefore deprived of rights and liberty until it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The fourth amendment is part of fundamental due process, no person should be deprived of rights if their due process has been ignored.
B. My opponent, I believe, has seriously misinterpreted the fourth amendment here. It is widely agreed upon that any search intentionally conducted without a warrant is not constitutional (5). The search may be reasonable, but that doesn't change the fact that it requires a warrant. Moreover, my opponent takes a quote out of context. My opponent states that "The core purpose of the fourth amendment is to ensure......'are not the random of arbitray acts of government agents'". However, the source he cites states "an essential purpose", not 'the core purpose'. The protection of an individual's rights and privacy is still a large component of hte fourth amendment. The exclusionary rule is needed to maintain these rights.
C. Because the rule is enforced by humans, it isn't perfect, but nothing else can be perfect either. We aren't going to toss the rule out because of a few slip-ups. The exclusionary rule remains preferable to other methods.
D. It didn't literally mean that "we got along fine". I was making the point that just becaues we did something before doesn't mean that it's okay to do it now.
E. While it is true that we must maintain a certain degree of safety, it is also imperative that we uphold those rights which have been explicitly gauranteed by the constitution, which is the highest law in the United States. We cease to be a free society when we openly sacrifice checks on government power for collective safety. Moreover, the rule is not necessarily making us that more unsafe. There have been no violent spikes in crime that can be directly attributed the the exclusionary rule. The rule has not resulted in massive increases of murder or burglary.
F. While it is necessary that a compromise be made, we must recognize that the compromise needs to respect the rule of law. The fourth amendment makes a very clear guarantee to the citizens of the U.S. To allow that to be ignored is to lie to citizens.
I think that I have made it clear why the exclusionary rule is such an essential part of the United States judicial system. It is invariably the best way to respect the rights of the individual.
I thank my opponent for an excellent debate, and I urge a PRO vote.
(2) http://law.jrank.org... (search the term "warrants" to find the fact)
A. Unless my opponent can actually prove that the exclusionary rule reduces unwarranted searches and seizures, the exclusionary rule has no advantage over the inclusionary rule since it no more adequately protects people's rights. The law alone is a powerful deterrent.
B. The 'good faith' exception, while an improvement, is still flawed. There could easily be unforeseen side effects not accounted for by the good faith exception. It is also worth noting that my opponent has muddied the line between the exclusion of evidence and the punishment of policemen: at least from my opponent's perspective, it seems that it would be better in the case of 'good faith' to not punish the officers, but still not use the evidence in court.
C. My opponent has given no citation as to the reliability of the exclusionary rule, and yet he continues to rely upon it. By not citing the effectiveness of the exclusionary rule, many of his claims are unfounded and he has failed to meet his burden of proof.
D. The page my opponent cites (http://law.jrank.org...) does claim that there was an increase in the number of search warrants. First and foremost, this page itself does not provide any citations. But also importantly, it does not explain why this matters. It claims that police had no incentive to obtain a warrant, but this is false: lawful punishment itself is an incentive.
"My final sentence in the last round was simply an example to try and show that conventional punishment is not an absolute detterent."
And that in no way invalidates my response.
Contention 2: Respect for Constitutional Rights
A. My opponent cites the Constitution, as though it is evidence. In America it is a very important document, but at the same time it is not perfect. It has been amended over two dozen times, and will continue to be. My opponent cannot rightfully cite the Constitution as evidence without any further logical or empirical support. This is really nothing but an appeal to authority. But at the same time, my opponent contradicts himself. He says that we are "innocent until proven guilty"; but a person is not proven guilty before a warrant is obtained. By my opponent's logic, even a warranted search is a break of the fourth amendment since the person in question has not yet been proven guilty and so still retains full rights. This point not only contradicts itself, but also contradicts many other points that my opponent has made.
B. My opponent has ignored my argument, and has instead only argued an irrelevant point with an appeal to popularity. In this case, the difference between "essential" and "core" is inconsequential. My opponent asserts that "protection of an individual's rights and privacy" is also a purpose of the exclusionary rule; but he has yet failed to prove why the exclusionary rule works any better than lawful punishment.
C. My original point was that the exclusionary rule does not "fully respect an individual's rights" since it is not perfect. My opponent has conceded his point that the exclusionary rule and only the exclusionary rule fully respects an individual's rights.
D. This is an unfounded assumption based on an inapplicable analogy.
E. If we cannot sacrifice any rights, then why is it that we allow police to police us? Why are we not allowed to scream "Fire!" in a crowded theater? While constitutional rights are very important, they are not always applicable. In order to prosecute known criminals and thus ensure that personal life, liberty, and property is preserved, it may be necessary to sacrifice some relatively minor personal freedoms. While the exclusionary rule has not led to massive increases of murder or burglary, it has led to the release of hundreds of thousands of known criminals, thus jeopardizing the rights of citizens.
F. My opponent's claim is utterly ridiculous. He asserts that without the exclusionary rule, the fourth amendment is being "ignored". This is not so. Police who break into your home receive the exact same consequences that burglars do, and no less. And yet my opponent would have us fear police but not burglars. Is the fourth amendment being "ignored" when a burglar breaks into my home and the government doesn't immediately stop him before he can even touch anything? I think not.
My opponent's claims are either unsupported or absurd. He has failed to meet his burden of proof. I have provided more than enough explanation as to the possibility of a fair, inclusionary world. The choice is clear: vote Con.
I thank my opponent for this most excellent debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by MTGandP 6 years ago
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