Enough So You Won't Illegally Search My Shit.

Or not:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of an Alabama man on drug and weapons charges, emphasizing that the exclusionary rule, which generally bars prosecutors from using evidence obtained by the police through improper searches, is far from absolute.

In a 5-to-4 opinion, the court upheld the federal conviction of Bennie Dean Herring, who from the court records appears to have been very unlucky as well as felonious in his conduct. In upholding the conviction, the court’s majority came to a conclusion that will most likely please those who complain about criminals going free on “technicalities” and alarm those who fear that the high court is looking for ways to narrow the reach of the exclusionary rule.

Thomas, Alito, Scalia and Swing Vote joined Roberts in the majority.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • Molly

    If their goal is strict adherence to the constitution and the founder’s intentions, which Scalia is always harping on, I think they really missed the mark on this one.

  • scott

    I think the S.Ct. got it right. As the article quoting Chief Justice Roberts who, “wrote that “the very phrase ‘probable cause’ confirms that the Fourth Amendment does not demand all possible precision.” The police were not the ones that made the mistake and there was no intent on the part of the police to deprive Mr. Herring of his rights. The dissenters seem to demand perfect record keeping. I know that area which is in southeast Alabama and frankly, I’m surprised the clerk back so quickly to correct the mistake.

  • quadmoniker

    What scares me about this is that it opens the door for some things to be ok due to negligence. Police officers were given leeway to make honest mistakes before anyway. But police officers and their departments are slow, ineffective, and bad at record keeping much more often that they’re intentionally malicious. I would have a right to not be searched if the police department failed to update the records on an issue I had already taken care of. It’s not that this dude had drugs on him; it’s all the people who WILL be because officers know whatever they might find will be admissible. There’s no deterrent to overall departmental laziness if nothing bad happens when you are.

  • Steve

    I dont think this ruling will be far reaching in terms of limiting the exclusionary rule. Primarily because the particular facts are so narrowly limited, to a non-police negligent error and the Court did not create any kind of new bright line rule.
    I agree with the dissenters in this case but it does not invoke fear about a serious eradication of the exclusionary rule.

    This case pretty much falls under the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule (the others are lack of standing, fruit of a poisonous tree, indepedent source and inevitable discovery all of which would take me forever to explain)… now if there was a case where the police acted negligently to update their records so they could search people all the time under the auspices of “good faith”…this ruling would most likely NOT allow for that…this was a non-police negligent error in record keeping.

    Ima have to holla at my prof. about this case and see what he thinks.

    Also of note today was Oregon v. Ice where a (mostly) liberal majority held that issue of imposing concurrent vs. consecutive sentences was not a jury question and the judge had strong discretion.