“In the jealous regard for maintaining the integrity of individual rights, the [Supreme] Court gave life to Madison’s prediction that ‘independent tribunals of justice . . . will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the Constitution by the declaration of rights.’” Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 647 (1961).
The Exclusionary Rule. More commonly understood when referred to by attorneys as a “Motion to Suppress.” That is the tool by which our courts give life to rights afforded to us under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.
Certainly, there can really be no rights if the law provides no remedy for the violation of such rights. These guarantees of our constitution—(1) “to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures”; (2) that “no person shall be compelled . . . to be a witness against himself”; and (3) “to have the assistance of counsel”— would be worth the parchment they are written on if the government could ignore our liberties without consequence.
So arises the need to suppress (or exclude) evidence obtained when the government violates our rights because suppression works to deter future government misconduct and to ensure the integrity of our justice system.
In Pennsylvania, the Rules of Criminal Procedure lay out the manner and method by which those accused of a crime can seek to suppress unlawfully obtained evidence. See Pa.R.Crim.P. 581. “It is the loss of that evidence that is the ‘price’ our society pays for enjoying the freedom and privacy safeguarded by the [Constitution].” United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 941 (1984). And it is the loss of that evidence that can be the difference between an acquittal and conviction. Thus, be mindful of your rights and the tools available to you to ensure their safekeeping.