Sunday, July 20, 2008

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

I'm a big fan of some of our justices on the United States Supreme Court.  I generally like Clarence Thomas, mostly because of his audacity to be a staunchly conservative black man in a hugely public position.  Whether I agree with his ideas or not, that alone is worth my respect.  I also like John Roberts and Sam Alito, though I think mostly because of their upbringings in blue collar and immigrant families, respectively, and their rise to the most powerful tribunal in the nation.  They represent the American dream.  Most of the justices on the Supreme Court right now represent the American dream, and I can dig it.

What I can't dig is acting like those accused of committing crimes and the police are on equal footing.  The New York Times today published an article about America's exclusionary rule, which basically says that, if the police break the law when they're coming after you, then the State can't use whatever evidence they find because of that illegality against you in court.  Apparently, some of our more conservative justices (the article mentions only Scalia and Roberts, but I'm sure Thomas and Alito are on board as well) are starting to think that's maybe that's not a good idea.  Apparently, we need to help out the police.

Or maybe not.  The United States government has a budget with 13 digits.  That's $2,900,000,000 for FY2008.  My wife and I have a personal budget with only five digits: $x0,000.  But there's more.  Let's say I get under investigation for some tax crime.  The U.S. has U.S. Attorneys and all their staff trying to prosecute me, with IRS special agents investigating me, and the advice of the DOJ Tax Division helping out too.  If we assume that just one person from each organization is chasing after me, that's three highly qualified and experienced people going against me, a law student with almost no experience in the courtroom or in police investigations.  Maybe I can retain a lawyer, but the chances that I can afford a lawyer who specializes in tax criminal defense---to help even out the playing field---is pretty slim.  We're talking about David and Goliath.  And I'm David.  Only I don't have any stones for my sling.

The only stone for my sling is the exclusionary rule.  Take that away, and I've just got a string.


Craig said...

I agree that we shouldn't get rid of the exclusionary rule unless we can develop something just as effective. And I can't think of anything.

What I really like about it is that its purpose is to make sure the police obey the law. And if the police don't obey the law, why should we?

Jeremy Masten said...

I had never thought about that before. I've always thought of it in terms of the uneven playing field, but I really like that perspective. You're absolutely right. Especially in light of that cop down in Florida who stole a bunch of coffee---if he doesn't pay, why should we?