The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark opinion in Mapp v. Ohio, the most famous search-and-seizure case ever decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, celebrated its 50th birthday a few weeks ago. Mapp overruled another well-known search-and-seizure case, Wolf v. Colorado (1949), and held that the state courts must exclude illegally seized evidence as a matter of federal constitutional law. The court declared that “all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is inadmissible in a state court.” The Supreme Court rejected the argument that this rule allows criminals to go free as a result of honest police mistake, because “it is the law that sets him [the criminal] free” and that “nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws.”
Today, if a police officer acts illegally or violates an accused person’s rights, evidence resulting from the illegal actions cannot be used against the Defendant at trial; it is excluded from trial. “Fruit of the poisonous tree” is inadmissible at trial. See Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920).
Although I think the provision is practically meaningless, in the new Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law, in order to cure the “racial profiling complaint,” the following provision was inserted repeatedly throughout:
A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, or other political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color, or national origin in the enforcement of this section except to the extent permitted by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Alabama of 1901.
What is the remedy for an arrested unauthorized immigrant after racial profiling? The exclusionary rules seems toothless and meaningless. If a court excludes the evidence from illegal racial profiling in one case, as soon as the immigrant leaves custody of the Sheriff, he will have committed a new crime subject to new arrest. This was confirmed by Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall,
If ICE doesn’t pick up immigrants arrested under the new Alabama law, Marshall said, local police could find themselves picking up immigrants, holding them for 30-day sentences, and re-arresting them as soon as their sentence is over.
“Once they’re out of custody, they’re in the country illegally, so they’re offending again,” Marshall said.
The exclusionary rule provides no deterrent as it does in every other criminal case. Would the unauthorized immigrant have a civil rights lawsuit? Sure, but I don’t see an Alabama jury giving too much sympathy (or monetary compensation) toward the illegal immigrant. I see no real or likely deterrent for illegal actions of rogue law enforcement officers. No incentive is present which encourages compliance with the law but all the reason to do what the statute expressly forbids.
The wrong actions of rogue officers ultimately are rewarded.