Herring v. United States (2009)

Hello fellow classmates,

To start off with, I believe it is important to point out just how complex the issues and arguments posed in Herring. V United States are as to really understand the majority of it one must also have a strong understanding of United States v. Leon and Arizona v. Evans (Here is a link to a very short overview of the decision and ruling in Arizona v. Evans to give some background http://law.jrank.org/pages/23668/Arizona-v-Evans-Decision.html). After looking over the certiorari briefs submitted on behalf of Herring, it can be easy to understand why Herring points to Evans as precedent set by the Supreme Court as the case facts mirror Herring’s situation almost exactly and in that case the Court ruled in Evan’s favor.

 After wading through Chief Justice Robert’s quite lengthy majority opinion, I believe the Court’s reasoning behind their decision is two-fold.

1)      Culpability of the Police – Here the Court fleshes out whether the error that resulted in the warrant previously issued not properly being recalled was indeed made by the police. Though the court finds this error to be the fault of the police, in accordance with the good-faith rule applied in Leon, Roberts cites the rational steps police took to correct the mistake made within the database (though Herring had already been arrested at this point) and that the arresting officers acted in good-faith under the belief that the warrant was indeed valid and outstanding. Here Roberts addresses the police department’s mistake and cites the previously residing court of the Eleventh Circuit, stating “the conduct in questions was a negligent failure to act, not a deliberate or tactical choice to act” (Herring 3).

2)      Future Deterrence – Though Roberts points out that the majority do not argue that the initial arrest and search under the faulty warrant is a Fourth Amendment violation, he also points out that the inclusion of the evidence collected from the search in the trial does not automatically fall under the exclusionary rule as it “is not an individual right and only applies where it results in appreciable deterrence” (Herring 5). Citing Leon, the court finds that the cost of excluding such evidence, letting guilty and possibly dangerous defendant walks free, far outweighs the benefits, ensuring that police do not abuse the power of search and seizure (intentional conduct and actions the Court did not find present in this case). In the end, the Supreme Court finds that no significant measure of deterrence would be obtained from applying the exclusionary rule in this case as the error on behalf of the police department was neither a recurring deliberate act or systematic problem, but instead an honest mistake by police that resulted in a search that was done with the reasonable and good intentions of properly carrying out justice.


All in all, though I understand the reasoning behind the majority’s argument, I am also inclined to lean toward the side of both Justice Ginsburg and Breyer, as each makes a point of questioning how much freedom the good-faith rule gives officers and how such a rule has led to the eroding of the exclusionary rule.

Lastly, I want to pose the question of whether anyone believes that this case would have turned out differently if the specifics of the case were different. If the police department involved in the case were a department who was known for its continuous record keeping errors when issuing warrant would the Court side in favor of Herring because such a decision would significantly deter such reckless behavior on the part of law enforcement, specifically that department?

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