Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Davis v. United States exclusionary rule case.

An important decision came down from the Supremes the last day or so that should be of interest.

In Davis v. United States, 09-11328 (June 16, 2011) a vehicle stop resulted in the search of the passenger compartment of a vehicle which turned up a handgun in the defendant's jacket pocket, and he was prosecuted as a felon in possession of a firearm.

Davis tried unsuccessfully to argue that the Court's decision in Gant v. Arizona dictated that the same result should apply in his case. The court demurred.

In Gant, a case that had similar facts as the instant case, it was held that police could search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to an arrest only if the arrestee was within reaching distance of the contraband or it was reasonable to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of the arrest.

The Court ruled in Davis that searches conducted based on binding precedent at the time are not subject to the exclusionary rule-and the precedent at the time of Davis' case was not Gant, but Belton.

The exclusionary rule is a remedy that punishes police misconduct by suppression of evidence. It exacts what Justice Burger described as "the monstrous price we pay" in Coolidge v. New Hampshire. In that case Edward Coolidge, guilty as a man can be, walked free of a murder conviction because of the exclusionary rule. Coolidge was also implicated in another murder of a child but was never convicted of anything.

The Court also clarified the purpose and scope of the exclusionary rule, stating that it is subject to a cost benefit analysis, and that for exclusion to apply the deterrent benefits of suppression must exceed the heavy cost exacted.

That's something of a shift.

Credit to Stu'sViews.