U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr., writing for the 7-2 majority in Davis v. United States, held that a change in the law after a conviction did not make a search conducted during an investigation that complied with the law at the time invalid. Justice Alito said the absence of police culpability at the time of the search "dooms" a defendant's claim that evidence obtained in the search should be excluded at trial, according to Law.com.
The opinion in Davis v. United States grew out of the conduct of Willie Davis. He was a passenger in a car stopped by police in Greenville, Ala., in 2007. Police arrested the driver for being under the influence of alcohol, then searched the car and found a revolver in a jacket that Davis had left on the car seat, reported Law.com. At trial on charges of felony possession of a firearm, Davis sought to suppress the gun evidence, citing a related, then-pending Supreme Court case. The evidence was permitted at trial, and Davis was found guilty and sentenced to more than 18 years in prison. The Federal Appeals court dismissed the charge citing the high court’s post conviction decision that changed the law.
"Evidence obtained during a search conducted in reasonable reliance on binding precedent is not subject to the exclusionary rule," Justice Alito wrote. Justice Alito said the exclusionary rule had a limited purpose of deterring future police misconduct, and could be ignored if it did not clearly serve that purpose in a given case, according to Law.com.
“It is one thing for the criminal 'to go free because the constable has blundered.'" Justice Alito wrote, quoting from an early ruling that foreshadowed the exclusionary rule. "It is quite another to set the criminal free because the constable has scrupulously adhered to governing law. Excluding evidence in such cases deters no police misconduct and imposes substantial social costs."
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