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4 Basics of the Fourth Amendment’s Exclusionary Rule

by Seth Azria on 5/16/2016

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the vast body of search and seizure law is important in criminal defense generally, and in drug cases in particular. As attorneys, we always pay close attention to the manner in which evidence against our clients was obtained.  Because search and seizure law is so complex, we only touch on the major points in this  article.

Please feel free to call us at (315) 364-1155 if you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge that might involve search and seizure issues. Case consultations are free.


I. The Exclusionary Rule is based on the Fourth Amendment

At the heart of search and seizure law is the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule dictates that a prosecutor may not use any evidence illegally seized. This rule, derived from the United States Constitution's Fourth Amendment guaranteeing freedom from illegal searches and seizures, initially applied only to the federal government prosecutions.

But in 1961, in Mapp v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court made the exclusionary rule apply also to state prosecutions. Now all those charged with a state of federal crime have the protection of the rule. New York’s State Constitution also contains language identical to the US Fourth Amendment and therefore the state also protects these interests, perhaps even more so than the Federal law.

II. Purposes of the Exclusionary Rule

The New York Court of Appeals has stated that the exclusionary rule is intended to deter future police wrongdoing and protect the integrity of judicial process from abusive investigatory methods. In short, the exclusionary rule exists to protect society from police misconduct.

III. People Protected by the Exclusionary Rule

All persons and aliens, including illegal aliens, are protected while within the borders of the United States. The protection does not generally extend to aliens after they leave the United States.

IV. Types of Searches and Seizures Protected

The prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the Fourth Amendment apply to government actions. Therefore, the exclusionary rule will not apply to evidence obtained during a private search.  Even if a search appears to be private, it may be deemed a government search and be covered by the exclusionary rule,  depending on several factors related to the extent of any police involvement.

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