Police Mistakes of Law

njdiver

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Police Mistakes of Law

This Article addresses something that most Americans would consider a constitutional impossibility: police officers stopping or arresting individuals for lawful behavior and courts deeming such seizures reasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes, thereby precluding application of the exclusionary rule. Today, however, an increasing number of courts condone seizures based on what they consider “reasonable” police mistakes of law, typically concerning petty offenses, and permit evidence secured as a result to support prosecutions for unrelated, more serious offenses (usually relating to guns or drugs). The Article surveys the important rule-of-law, separation-of-powers, and legislative-accountability reasons supporting continued judicial adherence to the historic no-excuse position. In so doing, it illuminates the central role that police can play as interpreters—not merely enforcers—of the law, a role to date ignored by courts and commentators.

 

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