United States v. Leon (1984) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Procedural Law

United States v. Leon (1984) is a United States Supreme Court case that established the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule in criminal law.

In United States v. Leon (1984), the United States Supreme Court addressed the admissibility of evidence obtained through a search warrant that was later found to be invalid. The case involved a police officer who applied for a search warrant based on information from an anonymous informant. The warrant was issued, but it was later determined that the officer had made a material misstatement in the application. The evidence obtained through the search was used to convict the defendant of drug offenses.

The defendant argued that the evidence should be excluded under the exclusionary rule, which generally prohibits the use of evidence obtained through unconstitutional searches or seizures. However, the Supreme Court established a “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule, holding that evidence obtained through a search warrant that is later found to be invalid may still be admissible if the police officers acted in good faith when they relied on the warrant.

The Court noted that the exclusionary rule is a remedy designed to deter police misconduct and that it should not be used to punish officers who have acted in good faith. The Court also emphasized that the exclusionary rule should not be applied in cases where the benefits of deterrence are outweighed by the costs to the criminal justice system.

The Court’s decision in United States v. Leon has been controversial and has been criticized by some civil liberties advocates who argue that it has weakened Fourth Amendment protections and has encouraged police officers to be careless or dishonest when applying for search warrants. However, others argue that the decision was a necessary limitation on the exclusionary rule and that it has helped to ensure that evidence obtained through lawful searches is admissible in criminal trials.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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