If the rationales discussed in Mapp v. Ohio were retained, would we have the good faith exception?

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The main rationale in Mapp v. Ohio is that without an "exclusionary rule" that no evidence gathered illegally can be used against the accused, the Fourth Amendment (and quite possibly the Fifth) would be stripped of its meaning. Because the evidence against Mapp was gathered illegally, it should not have...

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The main rationale in Mapp v. Ohio is that without an "exclusionary rule" that no evidence gathered illegally can be used against the accused, the Fourth Amendment (and quite possibly the Fifth) would be stripped of its meaning. Because the evidence against Mapp was gathered illegally, it should not have been admissible. In fact, the substance of the rule had been around for some time—the question in Mapp had more to do with whether it was binding on states as well than whether it should exist. The so-called "good faith exception" was articulated in a later case, and it established that evidence collected by officers who believed they were acting within the law—i.e., when they unknowingly produced an illegal warrant—could be admitted. Put briefly, the exclusionary rule is still part of American constitutional jurisprudence. Evidence obtained illegally cannot be used against the accused. The "exclusionary rule" is, like most other rulings of the Supreme Court, not dogma. It is subject to revision, and it has been narrowed over time to account for some of the realities that attend the arrest of a suspected lawbreaker. In short, the rationale for Mapp has been retained. It has simply been revised by subsequent decisions.

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The judicial rationales used in cases such as Mapp v Ohio (1961) don't necessarily contradict the principle of good faith. However, the Burger Court, in U.S. v Leon (1984) clearly felt that it was necessary to establish the principle in unambiguous terms for the avoidance of doubt. In other words, what was only implied in the earlier case law was now made explicit.

What the Supreme Court in Mapp did was to establish a general rule, the exclusionary rule, which stipulated that evidence obtained by unlawful means was inadmissible in a court of law. However, legal rules, of their very nature, need to be applied in individual cases. In practical terms, this means that certain exceptions will often need to be made to ensure consistency in how courts arrive at their decisions.

Largely for reasons of public policy, the Burger Court in Leon shifted the focus from whether a specific search warrant is actually legal to whether a police officer on the scene believes it so. Although this may seem a slight watering down of the exclusionary principle, in actual fact it still upholds the protection of the citizen's Fourth Amendment rights in that law enforcement agencies can't simply barge their way into a suspect's property without due cause as they did in the Mapp case.

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There are two major rationales discussed in this case.  Either of them, taken as an absolute rule, would prevent the existence of the good faith exception.  However, there are exceptions to most legal rules and those exceptions tend to be sensible.  This is the case with the good faith exception.

The first rationale in Mapp is that searching someone's home is like compelling them to testify against themselves.  This means it violates the 5th Amendment.  If this rationale were taken as an absolute rule, even a search with a warrant would be illegal.  Therefore, this rationale cannot possibly be categorical and the good faith exception does not violate it.

The second rationale in Mapp is that admitting evidence from illegal searches would make the 4th Amendment meaningless.  The 4th Amendment is really meant as a check on lawless and indiscriminate police action.  When police obtain a warrant, they are not acting in a lawless or indiscriminate way.  They are doing what they are supposed to.  If the warrant turns out to have been illegal, it is not their fault.  Prohibiting the use of evidence they have found using this would not deter indiscriminate police action because the police have already been acting in a legal way (as far as they could know) by getting the warrant.

Therefore, the rationales used in Mapp should not be seen as contrary to the idea of the good faith exception.

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