`Reform' Would Open Way for Unreasonable Search and Seizure

By Stephen Chapman Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 16, 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

`Reform' Would Open Way for Unreasonable Search and Seizure


Stephen Chapman Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Ever wonder what would happen if the Bill of Rights came up for a vote? You don't have to wonder anymore. The text of the Fourth Amendment, which forbids the government to conduct "unreasonable searches and seizures," was offered on the House floor last week. It promptly went down in flames, with 303 members recoiling in disgust and only 121 daring to embrace the proposition that the American people should be secure in their persons and their homes from overzealous police.

The House was debating a bill to "reform" the exclusionary rule, which forbids the courtroom use of evidence that the authorities got by breaking the law. The bill says that federal courts shall politely ignore mere constitutional violations as long as the good constable was acting on "an objectively reasonable belief" that he was not trampling on anyone's rights.

North Carolina Democrat Melvin Watt proposed to delete the heart of the measure and replace it with the text of the Fourth Amendment. Republicans were not amused. Bill McCollum of Florida informed his colleagues that if they want to "get more evidence in search and seizure cases and get more convictions and get away from technicalities letting people who have committed crimes off the hook, then you need to vote against" Watt's version. That apparently is what his fellow House members wanted.

Watt's suggestion, and McCollum's objection, served the useful purpose of reminding us that the real enemy here is not the exclusionary rule but the constitutional protection. The exclusionary rule does not put restrictions on what the police can do in fighting crime - the restrictions all come from the Fourth Amendment. The exclusionary rule merely provides a remedy for people whose rights are violated. By doing that, it encourages cops to respect the Constitution.

Before the exclusionary rule, they didn't. A few years after the Supreme Court imposed it on the states in 1961, the deputy police commissioner of New York City admitted that the decision was "a shock to us. We had to reorganize our thinking, frankly. Before this, nobody bothered to take out search warrants. Although the U.S. Constitution requires warrants in most cases, the Supreme Court had ruled that that evidence obtained without a warrant - illegally, if you will - was admissible in state courts.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

`Reform' Would Open Way for Unreasonable Search and Seizure
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?