The case was decided six to three. Justice Clark delivered the opinion of the Court.
Since the Fourth Amendment's right of privacy has been declared
enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause of the
14th, it is enforceable against them by the same sanction of
exclusion as is used against the Federal Government. Were it otherwise .
. . the freedom from state invasions of privacy would be so ephemeral
and so neatly severed from its conceptual nexus with the freedom from
all brutish means of coercing evidence as not to merit this Court's high
regard as a freedom "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." . . .
in extending the substantive protections of due process to all
constitutionally unreasonable searches—state or federal—it was logically
and constitutionally necessary that the exclusion doctrine—an essential
part of the right to privacy-be also insisted upon as an essential
ingredient of the right. . . .
. . . our holding that the exclusionary rule is an essential part of
both the Fourth and 14th Amendments is not only the logical
dictate of prior cases, but it also makes very good sense. There is no
war between the Constitution and common sense.
Federal-state cooperation in the solution of crime under
constitutional standards will be promoted, if only by recognition of
their now mutual obligation to respect the same fundamental criteria in
There are those who say, as did Justice (then Judge) Cardozo, that
under our constitutional exclusionary doctrine "[t]he criminal is to go
free because the constable has blundered." . . . In some cases this will
undoubtedly be the result. But, as was said in Elkins, "there is
another consideration-the imperative of judicial integrity." . . . The
criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free.
Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to
observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own
. . . Our decision, founded on reason and truth, gives to the
individual no more than that which the Constitution guarantees him, to
the police officer no less than that to which honest law enforcement is
entitled, and, to the courts, that judicial integrity so necessary in
the true administration of justice.
Questions to Consider
In the majority opinion, the justices refer to the "exclusionary
rule." Under this rule, what has to be excluded from trial? Why?
The majority identifies several reasons why evidence gained in an
illegal search cannot legally be used against a defendant during trial.
Why do they say that such a rule is constitutionally necessary?
The majority insists that to allow illegally seized evidence during trial would destroy the government. Explain.
What foundation of U.S. government is the Court referring to when it
states, "Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its . . .
disregard of the charter of its own existence?"
Do you agree with the Court's statement "there is no war between the Constitution and common sense"? Explain.