What Is The “Good Faith” Exception in Police Searches

According to Weber Law defense lawyers in Washington, the Fourth Amendment protects American citizens from unlawful searches or seizures. This part of the Bill of Rights governs how law enforcement officers or government agents arrest or investigate private citizens for crimes.

But what happens when police officers obtain evidence unlawfully? This is where the good faith doctrine and the exclusionary rule come into play, and the Fourth Amendment’s power is tested. Let’s take a closer look at the good faith exception and the exclusionary rule.

The Good Faith Exception

Let’s say you are an American citizen relaxing at home, when all of a sudden, police officers storm in. They have a warrant, and upon searching your home, authorities might discover some evidence related to a crime.

The good faith exception states that if there is a situation where evidence was obtained due to an invalid warrant, it can be used in your trial if the police officers were acting in good faith and believed their actions were legal.

The accused will never have a valid defense through ignorance of the law, yet, the courts have given this courtesy through the good faith exception to law enforcement officers, which allows them to hide behind immunity. This means those police officers are given the benefit of the doubt and proving that they broke the law is much harder to achieve.

Though it is worth noting that the good-faith exception cannot be applied if improper acts occur at any point during the search, including the process of obtaining a warrant.

The Exclusionary Rule

The exclusionary rule dictates that when police officers unlawfully seize evidence from a private citizen, they cannot use it against the accused at their trial. The exclusionary rule was meant to act as a deterrent to law enforcement misconduct.

While some view the good-faith exception as a means to avoid constitutional rules, others abide by it. The good faith exception is surrounded by controversy due to its implications, and this is why many states choose not to apply it in their courts. 

If you believe the good faith exception will be used in your case, contact an attorney that genuinely values the United States Constitution and the rights it affords to its citizens.

The Good Faith Exception Requirements

The good faith exception can be triggered if police officers meet its requirements. They need to:

  • Behave adequately during the search
  • Completely avoid misconduct or other mistakes 
  • Have a valid warrant that was not obtained through misconduct

Suppose an officer makes obvious mistakes during their search, initiates the investigation even though the warrant is vague, or exaggerates the facts so that a judge grants them a warrant. In that case, the good-faith exception cannot be applied.

The good faith exception can be used in situations where police agencies take action due to mistakes in their warrant databases, for example, confusion over the names of suspects. If a police officer interpreted the law differently from how the court later ruled it, the officer might be deemed to have acted in good faith.

No matter how you view the good faith exception rule, you should contest it in court. Find a good criminal defense lawyer that values and will protect your rights as a U.S. citizen.

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