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Fourth Amendment vs. Polcie Power

Please help me so I can complete the following:

Assume the role of any modern United States senator in a 1050-1400 word letter. Direct the letter to the Congress of the United States. Defend the use of the exclusionary rule. In the letter:
Define the scope and limitations of the Fourth Amendment.
Explain what you think should happen if the police conduct an illegal search and seizure: Should the evidence be allowed or excluded from trial? Should police be granted certain exceptions in using illegally obtained evidence? Why or why not?
Identify and cite case examples that support your argument.

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Interesting letter assignment! One approach to help you with an assingment like this one is to look at information (including excerpts and links for further expansion) for each section which you can consider for you final copy. This is the approach this response takes. I also attached a supporting resource, some of which this response is drawn (for convenience).

1. Assume the role of any modern United States senator in a 1050-1400 word letter. Direct the letter to the Congress of the United States. Defend the use of the exclusionary rule. In the letter: (see below).


Dear Congress of the United States,

You might begin your letter something to the effect:

In defense of the exclusionary rule, this letter will address several issues of concern.

Now let's look at each section that you are to include in the letter, which can act as a tentative outline for your letter.

1. Define the scope and limitations of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendments - Search and Seizure: "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" (

Click on the following links for the history and scope of the amendment:

o History (click URL:
o Scope of the Amendment (click URL:
o The Interest Protected (click URL:
o Arrests and Other Detentions (click URL:

2. Explain what you think should happen if the police conduct an illegal search and seizure:

a. Should the evidence be allowed or excluded from trial?

Do you agree or disagree? Should evidence of an illegal search and seizure be excluded from trial or not? Proponents of the exclusionary rules argue that it should be excluded (see argument in defence of the exclusionary rule below), since the present laws is what binds the justice system together. If there are too many exceptions to the rule, the justice system will become less reliable.

Suggestions appear in a number of cases, including Weeks, to the effect that admission of illegally-seized evidence is itself unconstitutional. 194 These were often combined with a rationale emphasizing ''judicial integrity'' as a reason to reject the proffer of such evidence. 195 Yet the Court permitted such evidence to be introduced into trial courts, when the defendant lacked ''standing'' to object to the search and seizure which produced the evidence 196 or when the search took place before the announcement of the decision extending the exclusionary rule to the States. 197 At these times, the Court turned to the ''basic postulate of the exclusionary rule itself. The rule is calculated to prevent, not to repair. Its purpose is to deter--to compel respect for the constitutional guaranty in the only effectively available way--by removing the incentive to disregard it.'' 198 ''Mapp had as its prime purpose the enforcement of the Fourth Amendment through the inclusion of the exclusionary rule within its rights. This, it was found, was the only effective deterrent to lawless police action. Indeed, all of the cases since Wolf requiring the exclusion of illegal evidence have been based on the necessity for an effective deterrent to illegal police action.'' 199 (see URL: for footnotes and more detail, which is also attached for convenience).


Enforcing the Fourth Amendment: The Exclusionary Rule

A right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is declared by the Fourth Amendment, but how one is to translate the guarantee into concrete terms is not specified. Several possible methods of enforcement have been suggested over time; however, the Supreme Court has settled, not without dissent, on only one as an effective means to make real the right.

Alternatives to the Exclusionary Rule .--Theoretically, there are several alternatives to the exclusionary rule. An illegal search and seizure may be criminally actionable and officers undertaking one thus subject to prosecution, but the examples when officers are criminally prosecuted for overzealous law enforcement are extremely rare. 158 A policeman who makes an illegal search and seizure is subject to internal departmental discipline which may be backed up in the few jurisdictions which have adopted them by the oversight of and participation of police review boards, but again the examples of disciplinary actions are exceedingly rare. 159 Persons who have been illegally arrested or who have had their privacy invaded will usually have a tort action available under state statutory or common law.

Moreover, police officers acting under color of state law who violate a person's Fourth Amendment rights are subject to a suit for damages and other remedies 160 under a civil rights statute in federal courts. 161 While federal officers and others acting under color of federal law are not subject jurisdictionally to this statute, the Supreme Court has recently held that a right to damages for violation of Fourth Amendment rights arises by implication out of the guarantees secured and that this right is enforceable in federal courts. 162 While a damage remedy might be made more effectual, 163 a number of legal and practical problems stand in the way. 164 Police officers have available to them the usual common-law defenses, most important of which is the claim of good faith. 165 Federal officers are entitled to qualified immunity based on an objectively reasonable belief that a warrantless search later determined to violate the Fourth Amendment was supported by probable cause or exigent circumstances. 166 And on the practical side, persons subjected to illegal arrests and searches and seizures are often disreputable persons toward whom juries are unsympathetic, or they are indigent and unable to bring suit. The result, therefore, is that the Court has emphasized exclusion of unconstitutionally seized evidence in subsequent criminal trials as the only effective enforcement method.

Development of the Exclusionary Rule .--Exclusion of evidence as a remedy for Fourth Amendment violations found its beginning in Boyd v. United States, 167 which, as was noted above, involved not a search and seizure but a compulsory production of business papers which the Court likened to a search and seizure. Further, the Court analogized the Fifth Amendment's self-incrimination provision to the Fourth Amendment's protections to derive a rule which required exclusion of the compelled evidence because the defendant had been compelled to incriminate himself by producing it. 168 The Boyd case was closely limited to its facts and an exclusionary rule based on Fourth Amendment violations was rejected by the Court a few years later, with the Justices adhering to the common- law rule that evidence was admissible however acquired. 169

Nevertheless, ten years later the common-law view was itself rejected and an exclusionary rule propounded in Weeks v. United States. 170 Weeks had been convicted on the basis of evidence seized from his home in the course of two warrantless searches; some of the evidence consisted of private papers like those sought to be compelled in the Boyd case. Unanimously, the Court held that the evidence should have been excluded by the trial court. The Fourth Amendment, Justice Day said, placed on the courts as well as on law enforcement officers restraints on the exercise of power compatible with its guarantees. ''The tendency of those who execute the criminal laws of the country to obtain convictions by means of unlawful searches and enforced confessions . . . should find no sanction in the judgment of the courts which are charged at all times with the support of the Constitution and to which people of all conditions have a right to appeal for the maintenance of such fundamental rights.'' 171 The ruling is ambiguously based but seems to have had as its foundation an assumption that admission of illegally-seized evidence would itself violate the Amendment. ''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 secured 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 Constitu tion. The efforts of the courts and their officials to bring the guilty to punishment, praiseworthy as they are, are not to be aided by the sacrifice of those great principles established by years of endeavor and suffering which have resulted in their embodiment in the fundamental law of the land.'' 172

Because the Fourth Amendment did not restrict the actions of state officers, 173 there was no question about the application of an exclusionary rule in state courts 174 as a mandate of federal consitutional policy. 175 But in Wolf v. Colorado, 176 a unanimous Court held that freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures was such a fundamental right as to be protected against state violations by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 177 However, the Court held that the right thus guaranteed did not require that the exclusionary rule be applied in the state courts, since there were other means to observe and enforce the right. ''Granting that in practice the exclusion of evidence may be an effective way of deterring unreasonable searches, it is not for this Court to condemn as falling below the minimal standards assured by the Due Process Clause a State's reliance upon other methods which, if consistently enforced, would be equally effective.'' 178

It developed, however, that the Court had not vested in the States total discretion in regard to the admissibility of evidence, as the Court proceeded to evaluate under the due process clause the methods by which the evidence had been obtained. Thus, in Rochin v. California, 179 evidence of narcotics possession had been obtained by forcible administration of an emetic to defendant at a hospital after officers had been unsuccessful in preventing him from swallowing certain capsules. The evidence, said Justice Frankfurter for the Court, should have been excluded because the police methods were too ...

Solution Summary

From the role of a modern United States senator, this solution defines the scope and limitations of the Fourth Amendment and discusses other issues, such as: should the evidence be allowed or excluded from trial when obtained by a police officer through illegal search and seizure, should police be granted certain exceptions in using illegally obtained evidence (why or why not). Supplemented with one article describing the components of the exclusionary rule and links for further research.