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The case under analysis represents an instance of evidence being retrieved by entering the property of a suspect without a search warrant. After James Smith burglarized the house of his neighbor, the latter entered Smith’s house without the owner’s permission to see the stolen property. However, Smith argued that the evidence presented against him should not be deemed as valid since it had been obtained without the due procedures, specifically, with no search warrant. Despite the fact that the items found at Smith’s house were identified by their owner as such, the fact of trespassing and the illegal retrieval of the evidence makes it null and void as a possible vehicle of proving Smith’s guilt.
The decision to consider the evidence obtained in the course of the search without a warrant as invalid despite its obvious connection to the case might seem as unjust and going against the rights of the legal owner. In addition, the existing legal standards state that, while officials with actual legal power, civilians do not have to be aware of or follow the principles of search and seizure (Hsieh, 2016). Therefore, there might be reasons to reconsider the legitimacy of the evidence gathered by the plaintiff while entering Smith’s house and locating the property that originally belonged to him.
The existing cases that mirror the situation observed in the described scenario indicate that the information provided by the neighbor as a result of him trespassing his neighbor’s house should be dismissed as illegal and violating basic human rights. For example, the case of Mapp v. Ohio (“Mapp v. Ohio,” n.d.) famously ruled that any piece of information that was retrieved in violation of the Fourth Amendment has to be dismissed immediately and ignored in the further analysis of the case. The difficulties determining the scenarios in which the application of the exclusionary rule could be seen as valid constituted the key reasoning behind the ruling.
Similarly, the support of another famous case addressing the same issue can be used to define the data obtained by Smith’s neighbor as illegitimate. In “Weeks v. the United States” (n.d.,) the final ruling and the language of the statement indicate that the use of the data that was obtained via illegal methods contradicts the very nature of justice and the principles of democracy, negating the foundational ideas on which human rights are based. Specifically, the case posits that the use of such evidence “would have meant that the protection of the Fourth Amendment declaring the right to be secure against such searches and seizures would be of no value whatsoever” (“Weeks v. the United States,” n.d., para. 1). Therefore, both the language of the decision and the overall tone thereof declares that the application of the evidence gained through unwarranted search would allow propagating the practices that would disrupt the very fabric of the existing legal system.
In the case under analysis, the application of the exclusionary rule as the prohibition of using any evidence that has not been acquired through legal procedures is absolutely necessary. The case contains numerous philosophical underpinnings, such as the Lockean doctrine, which insists on the importance of the natural right as the guiding principle in defining the rationale behind decision-making (Westphal, 2016). The social forces that promote decision-making based on the movement against the lawless treatment of criminal cases may impede the court’s decision to decline the illegal evidence (Hsieh, 2016). Nevertheless, it is the ethical and legal responsibility of the court to remain impartial and use only the approved evidence.
From a legal standpoint, the act of trespassing and using the obtained evidence without a warrant, especially by a civilian, makes the evidence completely invalid according to the law. Therefore, viewing any information that comes from any source except the legally accepted ones as legitimate support of the statements made against an individual suggests infringing upon one’s rights granted to every citizen by the Constitution. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment guarantees the following:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (Legal Information Institute, n.d., para. 1)
If ignoring the specified regulation in one case, no matter how legitimate the decision to disregard it might be, one will ultimately defy the very foundation of the principles of democracy and the current system of justice (Hsieh, 2016). Therefore, even if the plaintiff identifies the items as theirs, the fact that they were obtained without due procedures makes them utterly irrelevant to the case. If a scenario in which breaking the foundational principles of the U.S. Constitution is introduced as a precedent, the foundation for the further disruption of the legal system and its malpractice will become a reality. Therefore, using the evidence obtained by the neighbor while performing an illegal search of Smith’s house as evidence in the court of law should be seen as inadmissible. If the request is ignored in this case, the precedent for ignoring the Fourth Amendment and, specifically, people’s right to be protected from the use of unfair evidence during trials, will be created.
The outcomes of the specified change will jeopardize the safety of every single citizen, undermining the very foundation of the American democracy and the principles of fairness in its justice system. Therefore, the information located as the neighbor trespassed Smith’s property and illegally entered his house has to be exempt from the case (Hsieh, 2016). Moreover, the defendant may find it legally possible to press charges against the plaintiff despite the evident damage that has been done to the neighbor as Smith took his property.
Therefore, it is imperative to maintain an impartial attitude toward the situation under analysis and focus on building the premises for a fair assessment of the case. The victim may look very sympathetic in his pursuit of justice and the willingness to regain his possessions, yet the actions that he undertook to retrieve the data for the case can only be seen as illegal and devaluing the significance of the information obtained in the process. Therefore, every bit of evidence that indicates an illegal activity involving the search for evidence against the defendant has to be seen as invalid and useless as material for the court. Complying with the set legal standards may imply facing difficult dilemmas, yet following the foundational principles of human rights is critical to upholding these rights in the future.
Hsieh, K. H. (2016). The exclusionary rule of evidence: Comparative analysis and proposals for reform. New York, NY: Routledge.
Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Fourth Amendment. Web.
Mapp v. Ohio. Web.
Weeks v. the United States. Web.
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Westphal, K. R. (2016). How Hume and Kant reconstruct natural law: Justifying strict objectivity without debating moral realism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.