In the United States, one of the ways that the judicial branch checks
the executive branch is through the exclusionary rule. Under this
policy, illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in court. While this
applies primarily to Fourth Amendment protections against illegal
search and seizure, it also applies to the Fifth Amendment protections
against self-incrimination. This means that if the police fail to inform
a suspect of his or her right to remain silent, and the suspect
confesses, the confession cannot be introduced as evidence in the
There has been a great deal of controversy over this, so in recent
years, the Courts have relaxed the standard a bit. For instance, courts
now apply what is known as the "good faith" exception. Under this
standard, if police believed, for instance, that a search warrant was
legal, but later found out that it was technically flawed, the evidence
obtained in the search would still be admissible.
In many democratic nations, violations of police procedure are
handled quite differently. For example, in England, if the police
violate criminal procedure, they are reprimanded; they might be punished
or sued. However, the illegally obtained evidence is still admissible
Questions to Consider
What is the purpose of the exclusionary rule?
What are some potential consequences of the exclusionary rule?
What is your opinion of how violations of police procedure are handled in England?
Should the United States keep or abolish the exclusionary rule? Explain your answer.
Some criticize the exclusionary rule as only protecting guilty
people. Critics argue that it does nothing, for example, to protect
against an illegal search or a failure to give Miranda warnings that produce no evidence or confession. Do you agree or disagree with this criticism? Explain.