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Gov't Database Errors Leading To Unconstitutional Searches? 272

Wired is running a story about a case the Supreme Court will be hearing on Tuesday that relates to searches based on erroneous information in government databases. In the case of Herring vs. US 07-513, the defendant was followed and pulled over based on a records indicating he had a warrant out for his arrest. Upon further review, the local county clerk found the records were in error, and the warrant notification should have been removed months prior. Unfortunately for Herring, he had already been arrested and his car searched. Police found a small amount of drugs and a firearm, for which Herring was subsequently prosecuted. Several friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed to argue this case, some calling for "an accuracy obligation on law enforcement agents [PDF] who rely on criminal justice information systems," and others defending such searches as good-faith exceptions [PDF].
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Gov't Database Errors Leading To Unconstitutional Searches?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:34AM (#25264193)

    I don't understand, shouldn't any evidence obtained under a false warrant be unusable?

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:34AM (#25264195)

    I am against erroneous data. I don't think anyone would be for it (except to manufacture evidence).

    So what's the big deal with it? I'll tell you.

    The big deal is that if Mr. Herring wasn't an unlicensed gun-toting drug user, the detrimental effects of the bad data would be obvious. But since Mr. Herring is actually a "bad guy" and Americans love to see bad guys put away, it makes it hard for anyone to sympathize with him.

    The ACLU couldn't have picked a worse poster child in this case.

  • IANAL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zironic ( 1112127 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:35AM (#25264201)

    IANAL but I'd that this was unwarranted because otherwise it could easily be exploited.

  • by Foobar of Borg ( 690622 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:42AM (#25264271)

    The ACLU couldn't have picked a worse poster child in this case.

    He could have been found with terrorist propaganda and child porn in his car. A fair number of people actually do have sympathy for his kind of case. A lot of people think drug laws are absurd and some people either don't believe in gun control or at least think it has gotten out of hand.

  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:45AM (#25264313)

    If I make a mistake on my taxes, there are penalties. Some of these may be severe, including jail time.

    IANAL, so could someone provide to me the list of penalties or sanctions which could be assigned to the decision makers in this case?

    It would make me feel better knowing we're all equal under the eyes of the law.

  • by perlchild ( 582235 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:46AM (#25264317)

    Playing devil's advocate here....

    What's to keep the police from having faulty information in the database, either on everyone, or a modifiable "Error" they can just put on people they don't like?

    What kind of audits are in place for this information?

    I'm sure the jury's still out on whether any country is a member of the "Free world" until the answers are out on this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:58AM (#25264437)

    "already been convicted of a crime."

    I have a disorderly conduct charge that I was convicted of. In PA, this is a misdemeanor.

    I was pulled over for "running" a stop sign--I had come to a full stop at a 4 way stop, allowed 2 cars to go through the intersection that been at the intersection before me, and I took my turn. An officer ran the stop to my left (where one of the two cars that went through the intersection had taken their turn), I avoided getting slammed in the rear.

    The officer subsequently put his lights on, U turned in the middle o the intersection, and pulled me over. He stated I had run the stop in disgust when I asked him what I had done. I stated I had stopped. This went back and forth where I stated I had stopped and he stated I hadn't, and I received a citation for the stop sign "violation" and a disorderly conduct charge; while I was frustrated, I never raised my voice and was respectful the whole time but clearly irritated.

    I was found guilty in at the magistrate level and at the county level. I had a passenger in the vehicle who witnessed the whole thing at both hearings. At the magistrate level, the officer claimed I had run the stop sign. At the county level, he stated I had stopped then didn't wait my turn (same traffic code violation under PA law); he had noted on the citation itself that I had "failed to stop." In PA, the county level is de novo, and besides, the magistrate level has no transcript (makes me wonder if it is this way really so prosecution can modify witness claims at the next level on appeal).

    So before stupid ass like you states that anyone who has been convicted of a crime is liable for a "good faith" warrant based on past "crimes," you are including in fact people like me who have done nothing wrong.

    And in case you meant (but didn't) to only mean "violent" or felony offenders, you might want to look into the 1984 Bail Reform Act and the definition of violent offenses; this is one of the reasons California's 3 strikes law puts minor drug offenders in jail for years, because a "violent" offense is defined legally to include what most people would include non-violent offenses.

  • is my receipt for your receipt."

    "It's not my fault that Buttle's heart condition didn't appear on Tuttle's file!" []

            "I understand this concern on behalf of the taxpayers.
            People want value for money. That's why we always
            insist on the principal of Information Retrieval
            charges. It's absolutely right and fair that those
            found guilty should pay for their periods of detention
            and the Information Retrieval procedures used in their

    "Don't fight it son, confess quickly. If you hold out too long, you could jeopardize your credit rating."

                        "I assure you, Mrs. Buttle, the Ministry is very scrupulous about
                        following up and eradicating any error. If you have any
                        complaints which you'd like to make, I'd be more than happy to
                        send you the appropriate forms."

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:01PM (#25264481)

    It's really not a bad choice. Most of the people opposed to the ACLU do so because they don't care to admit that they might be wrong in their interpretation of the constitution. Many of them refuse to admit that there's more than one interpretation of the 2nd amendment that comes from reading it. Others want protection from the state intruding on their religion, but want their religion to intrude on the state.

    In this case it's important for the basic reason that it's a test case. Is an illegal warrant the basis for a legal search or is it to be considered illegal and the individual allowed a free pass. If you think about it, it is a terribly important issue because of the possibility for abuse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:02PM (#25264489)

    If they HADN'T found anything on Mr. Herring, what do you think would have happened? Maybe a cursory apology. Probably not. His inconvenience for arrest and search? I suppose he could in theory have cause for a civil action, but against who? The cops who arrested him in good faith they had good information? The county clerk who made a minor paperwork error that went undetected for months? Please. Who's going to bring that case? And how does it not get tossed before a court even cares about the question of whether the information was bad?

    Like it or not, if there's going to be a test case on whether it's OK to conduct searches based on "oops!" information, it HAS to be someone who had something to lose--where the results of the bad search end up in court. So it has to be something where something illegal was found in the search.

  • Gettier scenario. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by a whoabot ( 706122 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:10PM (#25264573)

    Hypothetical Gettier scenario:

    The officer phones the clerk to ask if there is a warrant for this person's arrest. The clerk wants to trick the officer, so she says there is a warrant when she doesn't think there is. But she is mistaken and there really is a warrant she doesn't know about! The officer makes the arrest in the belief there was a warrant, which there was. Was the officer justified in making the arrest?

  • by moteyalpha ( 1228680 ) * on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:19PM (#25264641) Homepage Journal

    If I had a killer robot and I just entered coordinates at random, I am sure I would eventually get all the bad guys, however there might not be any good guys left either.

    It would seem that like everybody, you should be cautious of how you use the power you have and if you cannot exercise good judgment, you should not have that power.

    Clearly these people are not careful with their power and should therefore have less of it. If a person carries a gun, ( and police do ) then they have additional responsibilities of action that include NOT doing more damage than good, whether it is to the rights of individuals or innocent bystanders. Just because they have uniforms and are certified by the ( State, Local, Schoolboard, FBI, ATF ) they can still do damage and what deterrent is loss of income compared to years in jail. It seems that if a policeman kills somebody by accident, they are assumed to have more rights to act blindly than anybody else when it comes to their responsibility for damage.

    I was riding with my daughter the other day and a policeman in a small town stopped me for something and I can't even remember his excuse, but he came to the door of my car with his gun drawn and pointed at my head. I got no ticket, but he did so much damage to my opinion of this country that I find it hard to support any police if they are allowed to wander around threatening people with weapons that they should not be allowed to carry. As a citizen, if I walked up to a stranger and pointed a gun at their head, I would likely go to jail for a long time. They are allowed to do that and just say, "oops, my bad".

  • by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <> on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:20PM (#25264645) Homepage

    You've answered your own question. Unreasonable searches and seizures on innocent people don't result in charges brought against the victim. It's always the criminals who get prosecuted and who need the protection of the Constitution. Also note that the First Amendment is almost always invoked by those we want to censor.

  • by gravesb ( 967413 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:28PM (#25264719) Homepage
    That's the problem with the exclusionary rule. Except in rare cases where Section 1983 applies, the only people who have standing to challenge a bad warrant or an unconstitutional search are bad actors. If innocent people could take action and get damages for unconstitutional searches, then the police would be much more careful. If the police never take the evidence to court, there is no real action you can take; even if they pull you naked out of bed or ruin a party in front of guests, possibly ruining your reputation.
  • Root Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maz2331 ( 1104901 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:33PM (#25264767)

    The root problem in this case really boils down to whether the officers should be allowed to treat someone's word that a warrant exists as if that were the actual warrant. The correct course of action would be to have kept him in sight until a copy of the actual warrant was in the officer's possession. This is especially so now that police vehicles are routinely equipped with computer and communications gear that can immediately transfer the warrant to the officer on the scene.

    Basically, they jumped the gun (no pun intended) here and ended up executing a non-existent warrant.

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:33PM (#25264775)

    Cite please? I've make honest mistakes on my taxes several times, some quite major running into the thousands of dollars on the net result in my favor. The IRS caught these, and issued a notice that I owed them the difference. The worst penalty I've run into is a fine that totaled something like $50.


  • "I'm opposed to the ACLU because they'll defend some of the nastiest, low-life scum-fucks on the face of the earth so long as the case is in line with their political agenda."

    Because if we allow someone's rights to be infringed because they're a "low-life scum-fuck" that's a step towards infringing on Joe SixPack's rights.
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @12:48PM (#25264903)

    Unfortunately it is not always just the criminals who get prosecuted. Plenty of innocent people get prosecuted. Something like 25% of court cases end in a not guilty result. It's estimated that something like 5% of guilty verdicts are in error. If you take away these protections you are denying innocent people a chance to clear themselves.

    As far as wanting to censor people, the only cases that I am in favor of with that is explicit child pornography and military secrets in time of war. Otherwise I can see no justification for censorship.

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:01PM (#25265021) Journal

    He never said that anyone who has been convicted of a crime is liable for as much

    No, the original poster said

    Having a recent warrant out for arrest, being already charged with a crime, out on bail, or already been convicted of a crime. Seems like reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to me.

    and based on that,

    not abuse to search based on their reasonable suspicions.

    To put these ideas together: cops should be able to search anyone who had ever been charged with a crime at any time regardless of what the person is doing, because the fact that they were charged with a crime at some time in the past is "reasonable suspicion" that they're engaging in criminal activity now.

  • by perlchild ( 582235 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:03PM (#25265041)

    What I read from the summary was that there was a warrant erroneously entered, and that the correction hadn't made it back in time...

    On the other hand, I see you haven't seen "playing devil's advocate" in my post either...

    Going back to my argument...

    "How do you know it's an illegal search?"

    The prosecution might be punished if they used erroneous information to get a conviction... But they aren't held onto admitting they had information in the first place...

    How do you know what's erroenous and what's not?

    What kind of reviews are in place? I'm sure most concerned citizens want to know this... Those that aren't... might well become interested through misfortune.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:04PM (#25265047) Homepage

    Exactly. If the government can make an error, then do a legal search based on their own error the government can in practise search anyone at any time. Even if you've never been near the legal system they can just say "whoopsie, someone must have mistyped the SSN" and they're off the hook. The officers who did the search acted correctly but the evidence should be thrown out because it's fruits of the poisoned tree.

    I don't understand how this can even be called into question. The article says that "noone disputes the search was unconstiutional" and the good faith exception only applies to "minor or technical errors". In this case it's no detail, it's the single material fact that lead to the search. Without the error there would be no search, no evidence and no case. I can understand allowing evidence for a search that should have taken place but was in some minor way flawed, but not this. No way should it ever be allowed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:23PM (#25265229)

    The real problem is that the potential for abuse is high.

    "Oops," isn't a defense if you or I break the law because if it was we would all claim everything we did was accidental. It seems to me the same should apply to rights violations committed by the government. Otherwise we'll see governments "accidentally" forget to remove warrants all the time.

  • by HairyCanary ( 688865 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:34PM (#25265351)

    If not for the error, there would not be probable cause to stop and search the guy. Therefore, it never happened, and by extension, nothing found was really found. Maintaining our moral standards are far more important than convicting one man. The ends most certainly do not justify the means.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:42PM (#25265431)

    some people either don't believe in gun control OR at least think it has gotten out of hand.

    If you had trouble understanding that contraction, I doubt I'd trust you to read the second amendment accurately.

  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:55PM (#25265585)

    Quite simply, the point of the second amendment is for self protection, both against bad guys and against a government which is literally out of control. Anyone who argues otherwise is quibbling over nothing because the truth scares them. The arms protected are exactly what a policeman or ordinary infantry soldier carries. Indeed, it is quite reasonable to allow cannon, since merchant ships of the time had cannon not owned by governments, and so did individuals for the common protection.

    If gun haters want to argue whether it is still useful to think of an armed uprising against a government, or even whether it makes sense to allow guns in crowded cities, the solution is not to circumvent the constitution in sneaky ways, the solution is to *change* the constitution. There is even a procedure for that which has been used a couple dozen times.

    If the restrictions put on the second amendment were applied to freedom of the press, the only press protected would be manually powered flat bed presses. No power presses, no rotary presses, no newspapers with circulation over a few thousand, no internet, no copy machines, no private printers on private computers. Is that what you want?

    It works the other way too. If the degradations put on searches and habeas corpus were applied to guns, we'd have it worse than nowadays. You think magazine capacity is a problem? Wait until you can't even have a flintlock or cap gun or knives with sharp edges or points.

    What really burns me up about those who wish to change the constitution thru backdoor sneaky underhanded methods is that they set a precedent for other sneaky backdoor amendments, such as the recent degrading of protection from search and seizure, habeas corpus, etc.

    Dammit, there's a process for amending the constitution! If you don't like it the way it is, change it properly, have a proper discussion, but don't sneak around, because all you do is reduce respect for the process and make it easier for the other guys to do the same thing in ways you don't like.

    Every time I hear Republicans defend the degradation of the constitution by the Bush regime, I always wonder what they would think of Hillary having the same power they want Bush to have now. Ditto for Democrats who hate guns -- how would you like it if Reagan / Bush / McCain limited your favorite rights exactly as you have limited the second amendment?

  • by wasted ( 94866 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @01:56PM (#25265593)

    Whatever you say, I think they used the term "well-regulated militia" for a reason.

    "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State" is a justification for what follows, not a limit.

    The whole amendment would be a lot simpler if they only intended to say "Everyone can have guns".

    Doesn't "the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." mean the same thing?

  • by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Sunday October 05, 2008 @02:00PM (#25265619) Journal

    The restrictions placed on our government were put there for a reason. Our society will benefit far more from our rights being upheld than they will by this one junkie being sent back to prison based on an illegal search.

    Exactly. Evidence exclusion exists because it is a good compromise. We sacrifice a little bit of justice for a large gain in liberty.

  • by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @02:34PM (#25265881) Homepage

    The 4th amendment unquestionably prohibits this behavior; the evidence was collected under a false warrant (either knowingly or not; the warrant has been accepted by all to be false) and so the evidence is inadmissable. End of story.

    You're wrong. The 4th amendment is controlled by Supreme Court decisions that provide for a "good faith exception" to the exclusionary rule, meaning that if the officers were executing a warrant in good faith (meaning that they didn't know that there was an underlying clerical error), then the results of warrant are admitted. There's no reason to punish the cops for a database error.

    You can disagree with the Supreme Court rulings (United States v. Leon (468 U.S. 902) and Massachusetts v. Sheppard (468 U.S. 981)), but legally the judge was not ruling unconstitutionally.

    Personally, I'd agree with you, and like to see evidence thrown out at the merest whiff of official misconduct, but you're simply mistaken when you say that the judge ruled unconstitutionally.

  • by Deus.1.01 ( 946808 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @02:47PM (#25265981) Journal

    So why did they defend Ollie North of all people?

    Or Limbaugh.

    What i see in that link is just nationalists caring more about their pride then the ideals they pretend to stand by.

  • by schwaang ( 667808 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @03:23PM (#25266287)

    Doesn't "the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." mean the same thing?

    I want to hear you "Constitution says I get to keep my guns no matter what!" people pipe up when the government steps all over that part that goes:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,...

    True conservatives would stand with liberals on that one. Sadly, they watched too many episodes of "24" and let the morons in their party run it off the rails.

  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @03:33PM (#25266355) Journal

    Well, a warrant that exists under conditions that it should not seems to be pretty much false in my book. It was invalid, and the conditions under which it was created were not longer valid (expired).

    The problem with "good faith" in many of these cases is that it allows the rules to be stretched, which can lead to abuse. How many convenient "mistakes" would be needed before they start to seem "too convenient"

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Sunday October 05, 2008 @04:10PM (#25266631) Journal
    Well,you see the guy kinda has a point,and here is how. You see the so called "true" conservatives,you know,guys that actually believe in small government,individual and states rights,and actually CONSERVING instead of spending like a junkie on a coke binge,has kinda been pushed out of the so called "conservative" party by this creature called a Neocon. Strange little creature the Neocon. Loves Jackboots,power,big government,and blowing tax payer dollars worse than a gambling addict during the playoffs. Sadly Ron Paul isn't running as a 3rd party,then we'd actually have a conservative to vote for. Wouldn't that be nice for a change?
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @05:03PM (#25267073) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that at the time of search, the warrant was not false. It was a real warrant, it just had not been removed yet. Remember, Warrants don't mean he will be prosecuted, they only allow you to arrest or search, they could choose not to charge him later when the error was found. Now, being liberal, I think that they should throw out the new charges as the warrant should not have been in effect due to no error on the victim's part. However, this will be an interesting one to watch the courts on to see what their logic is.

    The warrant was expired, the currency of it was false. It's current effect was false.

    Suppressing the evidence in this case provides several things. First, it removes an incentive to improperly leave warrants in the system deliberately. It also acknowledges that the search should never have happened by making it as if it hadn't (helps to make the victim whole).

    Since the officers involved acted in good faith, they shouldn't be sanctioned in any way (including a civil suit). The department that negligently failed to remove the expired warrant from the system should face sanctions including a suit by the victim (for obvious reasons) and potentially a suit by the police department that relied on the bad information (since they spent a non-zero amount of time and money performing a stop and search that will be nullified based on bad information).

    Unless all of that happens, there is zero incentive to avoid screwing people over through negligence.

  • by loupgarou21 ( 597877 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @05:29PM (#25267249)

    At this point there are so many laws on the books that cover what many people think of as every-day activities that most people are violating laws on a day-to-day basis without even knowing it.

    At this point, it's not about finding the person that violated the law, it's finding the law the person violated.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Sunday October 05, 2008 @06:44PM (#25267683)

    I have no problem (despite all the "stories" here) of this happening. If you weren't doing something wouldn't have the issue. If Joe Blow hadn't had drugs in his car the police wouldn't have found it.

    You have far more faith your fellow human beings and modern technology than can be reasonably justified. You might want to re-think your position before a database or clerical error puts you in the hot seat.

    Hell, it almost happened to me. I was issued a bad ticket by a fat cop with Coke-bottle glasses who was sitting three blocks away at the time. He claimed I passed a school bus with its sign out. That was physically impossible since I was at a 4-way stoplight, the bus was on my left, and I was turning left. The driver was on a cell phone and waved me on. No stop sign was extended.

    So I go to court, and the judge tells me that, because of recent changes in the relevant statute, she could no longer take my driving record into account. Automatic six-month suspension. However, the judge looked over at the cop sitting in the corner (you know, the right to face your accuser in court), looked back at me, and asked the prosecutor if there was anything he could do to help me. He pulled out a thick legal tome, and began poring over the wording of the statue. Turned out that the charge could be plead down to a lesser charge, at the judge's discretion. So I ended up with an illegal left turn, got supervision, and paid the fine. End of story, or so I thought.

    Six months later, I'm at the local Secretary of State's office trying to renew my driver's license. The woman behind the counter pulled up my record on her computer, and said she was sorry, but they couldn't help me, and would I please go talk to the officer in the little room off to one side.

    So in this room is another fat cop, this one with a moustache. He starts shouting at me, calling me a danger to the public, and that it was people like me that get children killed. I kept trying to get the guy to chill, but he was on a roll. After about ten minutes of abuse, I'd had just about enough of this idiot, and lit back into him at max decibels. Eventually the whole facility went silent, everyone listening to me argue with this fucktard, me still not knowing what the hell was going on. This guy couldn't even tell me, all he knew was that I was supposed to be arrested. Civil servant, my ass. Finally I told him to either arrest me or shut the hell up. Oddly, he chose to shut up and I left.

    It turned out that either because of a technical problem with their database system, or an error by the court clerk, that ticket had gone through as a conviction for the original charge, my license had been suspended and an arrest warrant issued. I had been, of course, completely oblivious of this, and was utterly dumbfounded when I found out.

    Had I been pulled over for a busted taillight or an expired license sticker, I'd have been arrested on the spot. For half a year I'd been driving on a suspended license with an arrest warrant in my name, and nobody in the system had the decency to tell me. A letter stating that my license had been suspended, something to let me know there was a problem. Nope, just fucking arrest me, print me, and let the courts sort it out.

    So don't give me this crap. The system makes mistakes, lots of mistakes, and people get regularly shafted because of them. This "if you weren't doing anything illegal you wouldn't have the issue" philosophy of yours is morally bankrupt, and has no connection with reality whatsoever. People aren't perfect (either us regular citizens or those work work in law enforcement.) Yet, you seem willing to grant government officials a veneer of perfection that they have not earned, and certainly do not deserve.

  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Sunday October 05, 2008 @07:07PM (#25267851)

    Idiot. Why don't you read what I wrote? I clearly said that encroaching on the constitution for one reason encourages others to encroach for their own reasons, and that the proper way to change the constitution is to actually go thru the amendment process.

    And all you want to argue about is one of the encroachments? Feh.

  • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @08:29PM (#25268401)

    You've answered your own question. Unreasonable searches and seizures on innocent people don't result in charges brought against the victim. It's always the criminals who get prosecuted and who need the protection of the Constitution. Also note that the First Amendment is almost always invoked by those we want to censor.

    The day that you are wrongly imposed upon or being told to shut up will be the day that you realize your generalizations are reckless.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2008 @10:31PM (#25269153)

    If that many death row cases were proven as wrong convictions - imagine how many petty theft and drug cases are.

  • Exactly. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:40PM (#25269555)

    This is exactly why historically an illegal search that nets evidence of other real crimes invalidates the evidence. Historically the courts have reasoned that the "oops" power would be abused and thus lead to problems. Now if they would only do so with drug laws and seizure we'd be better off.

  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @01:57AM (#25270181) Journal

    That is not actually resolved. There are currently several justices (Scalia, Thomas and Roberts being the big ones) who undoubtedly believe that to be so and have written extensively to that effect, but so far that has not been upheld as "the way it is". There are justices (Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens being the most consistent and predictable) who feel that a vehicle is entitled to the same search protections as a home ("effects" are also covered), regardless of what property it is on... with the caveat that if something is visible in a vehicle from public property without entering or unreasonably examining the vehicle it is (as with one's home) fair game.

    In any case, I will be surprised if this even makes it to the Supreme Court. I expect that the evidence will be excluded (and the charges inevitably dropped) long before then. I will be completely shocked if the search is upheld.

  • by rfc1394 ( 155777 ) <> on Monday October 06, 2008 @04:32AM (#25270753) Homepage Journal

    If there is no penalty for errors in government databases, there will be no incentive to clean them. The evidence should be thrown out, and if it happens again, it should always be thrown out. This will mean that unless the government has absolutely clean data in their databases their evidence will be suppressed as a result. The police will have no choice but to ensure their databases are regularly cleaned of error. They essentially have no civil liability (sovereign immunity) for their errors now, if I'm not mistaken, if they are not forced to fix errors or suffer the consequences for their failure to do so, they will not do so.

    Cops screamed bloody murder saying police would be destroyed by Miranda [], and other cases whose names shine as beacons protecting us from the darkness of oppression ( Gideon [], Escobedo [], Mapp [], Seibert [] ) and others, as bright-line standards. And you know what? Police adapted. They became professional. They did their jobs better when they were forced to behave within constitutional limits. I have a quote from a book I'm writing:

    • The law presumes to protect an Accused against the excessive zealousness of the State in its attempts to prosecute them, and it grants them broad rights in protection against that zealousness... These are not roadblocks designed to frustrate the police from the apprehension and punishment of wrongdoers, they are walls designed to stop the police from misconduct and scandalous behavior. We have erected these walls over thousands of years because history has showed us, over and over and over, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum, that the police will, without them, will themselves continue on the path toward criminality and lawlessness.
      — Judge Edward 4 in Paul Robinson's Instrument of God
  • Re:Exactly. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:01AM (#25272697) Homepage Journal

    Historically the courts have reasoned that the "oops" power would be abused and thus lead to problems. Now if they would only do so with drug laws and seizure we'd be better off.

    If there were no drug laws we would be better off, too. The drug laws, like alcohol Prohibition, cause the very problems they purport to solve.

    Marijuana leads to harder drugs
    I know people who became crack addicts because the non-addictive marijuana stays in your system for over a month, while cocaine can't be detected by employers' tests after three days. Random drug testing turned these people into drug addicts.

    Back in the '70s they used to lace marijuana with PCP, AKA elephant tranquilizer, a very dangerous drug. For all I know they still do.

    Think of the children!
    You can buy illegal drugs in any high school in America, but you can't buy beer in any high school anywhere. It's safer to sell drugs to a kid than an adult, because the adult might be undercover Secret Police.

    Gangs and violence!
    Alcohol-related violence stopped when alcohol prohibition was overturned.

    You cannot regulate an illegal substance or activity.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford