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Herring v. United States


Officers arrested Herring based on an outstanding warrant listed in another law enforcement agency’s database. A search incident to arrest revealed drugs and a gun. A short time later, the officers learned the warrant on Herring had been recalled months earlier; however, this information had never been updated in the agency’s database. The government indicted Herring drug and gun charges. Herring moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that his arrest had been illegal because the warrant had been rescinded.


Whether the evidence discovered because of the unlawful arrest and search of Herring should have been suppressed under the exclusionary rule.


No. When mistakes by officers are the result of negligence and not systematic errors or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements, the exclusionary rule does not apply.


The purpose of the exclusionary rule is to prevent the use of evidence obtained unlawfully and to deter future government misconduct. However, the fact that a Fourth Amendment violation occurred, does not necessarily mean the exclusionary rule applies. The court noted, “Exclusion (of evidence) has always been our last resort, not our first impulse.” Hudson v. Michigan. To trigger the exclusionary rule, government conduct must be sufficiently deliberate that exclusion can meaningfully deter it, and sufficiently culpable that such deterrence is worth the price paid by the justice system. In this case, there was no evidence that the errors in the agency’s arrest warrant database were routine or widespread. The arresting officer testified he never had reason to question information about a warrant listed in that agency’s database. In addition, other officers testified that they could remember no similar miscommunication ever happening.


555 U.S. 135, 129 S. Ct. 695 (2009)

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