Friday, January 16, 2009

"Simple Mistake"--Do YOU Get a Pass?

Herring was released yesterday; here's the very, very brief summary.

Bennie Dean Herring, a man with prior felony convictions, went to retrieve an impounded truck. Looking for a reason to arrest him, a police officer asked if there were any warrants outstanding. The computer showed a warrant from a neighboring county.

Herring was arrested and found to be in possession of a pistol (illegal, as he had a prior felony) and methamphetamine. Moments later, the clerk called to say that the warrant had been withdrawn, but by then the search and the arrest had been made.

According to Chief Justice
John Roberts, writing for the majority, "When police mistakes leading to an unlawful search are the result of isolated negligence attenuated from the search, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements, the exclusionary rule does not apply."

You can see their reasoning. Herring's a bad guy. Why punish the police by letting a guilty man go free when they just made a simple mistake?

Umnnnhhh, yah. I'm kinda sympathetic to that.

Of course, there IS a disparate-treatment issue:

If you're a citizen who, say, accidentally carries a gun into a designated "gun-free" zone, the Supreme Court will not say that you can escape punishment because your action was "the result of isolated negligence." For citizens, there's no "I forgot" defense.

Or, in some Wisconsin jurisdictions, try "I forgot" or "I can't afford it" when the cop notices that your automobile registration is not current.

Or what about the Geithner Tax Defense: "Screw YOU! I didn't pay because I didn't pay, and wouldn't have paid at all except for this damn Treasury nomination, where I become Big Kahoona of IRS"

I've said it before, and I will say it again. We are rapidly approaching the point where the law (and enforcement thereof) is so utterly ludicrous that there will BE no law.

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