The sole purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter police misconduct and to encourage police officers to follow proper rules when gathering evidence of a crime.
According to cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, if police officers obtain evidence in violation of a suspect’s rights (Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures; Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination), the evidence will be excluded from the case against the suspect. See Weeks v. U.S. (1914), Mapp v. Ohio, (1961). As a result, charges may not be filed; the suspect is not charged with a crime and may otherwise receive no punishment – even if the crime was a violent crime (murder, rape).
Some people argue that excluding evidence from a case is too high of a price to pay for the officer’s actions. In other words, a person might commit a violent crime, but never be charged or punished and the person “gets away” with the crime.
Other people argue that excluding the evidence from a case is appropriate to keep officers “in check” and is necessary in order to preserve the rights of suspects in a criminal case and to preserve the right that “a person is innocent until proven guilty.”
This discussion is sometimes phrased as the following philosophical question:
What is worse: To convict an innocent person, or to let a criminal go free?
For your post this week, discuss whether you feel whether convicting an innocent person is worse than a criminal not being charged for a crime. Make detailed arguments to support your conclusion. For example, should the severity of the alleged crime be a factor in deciding whether evidence should be excluded? Do you think the exclusionary rule is necessary? Why or why not?