Pros and cons of the exclusionary rule

Written by alexis writing
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Pros and cons of the exclusionary rule
The exclusionary rule protects the rights of the accused. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The origin of the exclusionary rule can be traced back to the Supreme Court's 1914 decision in the trial of Weeks vs. U.S. The rule essentially states that illegally gathered evidence may not be admitted in court. The ruling was first applied to the 1961 case of Mapp vs. Ohio. The exclusionary rule stems from the Fourth Amendment's protection against illegal searches and against illegal seizure of evidence or property. The ruling has mostly been used to prevent prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement from illegally gathering evidence. Evidence gathered due to the illegal evidence may also be thrown out.

In Defense

The Fourth Amendment as a Constitutional right protects you from illegal searches and seizures. The exclusionary rule acts as an effective tool to prevent illegal evidence leading to incarceration. In fact it may be the only effective tool the judicial branch has to check against illegal searches conducted by police after a crime. Preventing new evidence from entering the court removes the motivation for illegal searches. Removing the exclusionary rule would take this power away from the courts and make it much harder to prevent illegal searches.

The Search for Truth

Justice Scalia wrote for the Supreme Court that the exclusionary rule creates a "costly toll" against law enforcement that incurs "substantial social costs." The fact that the evidence is found in an illegal way does not change the fact of its existence. This can allow guilty and/or dangerous people to go free due to the lack of sufficient evidence at trial. Without all the facts available, courts cannot reach the most informed decision.


The Constitution does not explicitly or implicitly mention the exclusionary rule. This has led to some people questioning the Constitutionality of the exclusionary rule. There is a long history of conservative politicians trying to remove the ruling from courts, as it came about due to a more liberal court.

Cost Analysis

The exclusionary rule causes prosecutors to gather very large amounts of evidence in case something is thrown out. This delays the trial and increases the number of plea bargains, which costs money.

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