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United States Supreme Court Modifies the Exclusionary Rule United States v Leon and Massachusetts v Sheppard

NCJ Number
R L Farb
Date Published
5 pages
Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions modifying the exclusionary rule so it does not apply when a search warrant is later determined to be invalid is explained in terms of its background, general implications, and application in North Carolina.
In the United States v. Leon case, an informant of unproven reliability told a police officer about drug sales from a residence. The case of Massachusetts v. Sheppard involved evidence collected in a homicide investigation. In both cases, the circuit court of appeals or State supreme court upheld the suppression of the evidence due to problems with the warrants. In overturning these decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the exclusionary rule does not apply when a law enforcement officer conducts a search in objectively reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate, although it is later determined to be invalid. The Court noted that issuance of a warrant by a magistrate or judge would normally suffice to establish that the officer acted in objectively reasonable reliance upon a search warrant. It also noted that it will sometimes be clear that the officer could not have believed that the search warrant was properly issued. The Court may well extend the modification of the exclusionary rule to warrantless searches and seizures. The Leon and Sheppard rulings apply fully in North Carolina. Judges conducting suppression hearings need not hear evidence or make findings of fact concerning a particular officer's training or knowledge of the fourth amendment. Also, the Leon and Sheppard modifications need not be considered if another exception to the exclusionary rule applies. A total of 21 footnotes are supplied.