Take, for example, yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on the curious case of a man arrested mistakenly, then charged for legal violations discovered through his illicit arrest. From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that evidence obtained from an unlawful arrest based on careless record keeping by the police may be used against a criminal defendant.
The 5-to-4 decision revealed competing conceptions of the exclusionary rule, which requires the suppression of some evidence obtained through police misconduct, and suggested that the court’s commitment to the rule was fragile.
It is easy to sympathize with their decision. We've all seen an episode of "Law and Order" or similar show where the police are handicapped by the exclusionary rule and forced to use ridiculous mental gymnastics to get around it, usually to catch the worst dirtbags imaginable. After enough episodes of "CSI," almost anyone would be in favour of restricting the 4th Amendment.
What people often forget is why we have the 4th Amendment in the first place - and what kinds of cases aren't shown very often on TV. It's easy to imagine yourself the innocent victim of a crime, desperate for justice and frustrated as the police are handicapped by what appear to unnecessary laws. But it's much harder for us to imagine ourselves in the place of the innocent victim of police overreach, where our only protection is that very Amendment.
What's even harder to imagine is the case of the police officer who can't get a legitimate warrant against you, and so fakes one up and later claims it was a simple negligent mistake. All of a sudden, the burden of proof is on YOU to prove that the "mistake" was no mistake and your "guilt" is in fact innocence. In other words - as guilty as can be until you prove your procedural innocence.
I'm hopeful that most judges will apply this new ruling in the fair and honest method in which the Supreme Court obviously meant for it to be used; but after the last 8 years, can we really afford to take such a gamble?