Davis v. United States: Retroactivity and the Good-Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule [April 9, 2011] [open pdf - 157KB]
"In Davis v. United States, the Supreme Court will consider whether evidence that was seized in violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights is admissible at trial because the police seized the evidence in good-faith reliance on then-controlling case law. The petitioner in that case, Willie Davis, was arrested after a traffic stop. Following his arrest, the police searched the passenger compartment of the car in which he had been riding. At the time of the search, the police were acting in conformity with controlling Eleventh Circuit precedent. However, after Davis was convicted and had filed an appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that this type of search incident to arrest was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Following that ruling, the Eleventh Circuit held that despite the new standard making the underlying search unconstitutional, the evidence is admissible under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. In similar cases, the Sixth and Tenth Circuits reached the same conclusion, but the Ninth Circuit has held that if a search is deemed unconstitutional under new Supreme Court precedent, the evidence seized during that search must be excluded. When the exclusionary rule applies, the evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search is suppressed at trial. The exclusionary rule is a pragmatic doctrine intended to deter Fourth Amendment violations, and it only applies when (1) there is no applicable exception to its operability, and (2) the benefits of evidentiary suppression outweigh its burdens on the justice system. The good-faith exception is one of several exceptions to the exclusionary rule's operability. One exception to the exclusionary rule is the good-faith exception, under which unconstitutionally obtained evidence may be introduced at trial if it was seized in 'good-faith.'"
CRS Report for Congress, R41774