Is There More to this Decision?

The United States Constitution does not permit a warrantless police search of a vehicle parked in a driveway next to the owner’s house, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The court rejected an argument by Virginia police who claimed their search of a motorcycle believed to be stolen fell under the “automobile exception” to the Fourth Amendment, which allows broader searches of vehicles stopped along the side of the road.

Read the decision: U.S. SUPREME COURT

Read an analysis of the decision: SCOTUSBLOG 

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion in which he agreed with the majority’s resolution of the Fourth Amendment question. But, Thomas stressed that the case was before the justices because, if Collins is correct and his Fourth Amendment rights were violated, the state courts would have to apply the exclusionary rule, which prohibits the government from using evidence obtained in violation of the Constitution, and “potentially suppress the incriminating evidence against him.”

Thomas expressed “serious doubts” about the Supreme Court’s authority to require states to follow the exclusionary rule, which is “not rooted in the Constitution or a federal statute,” and he urged the court to take up that question. The exclusionary rule prevents the government from using most evidence gathered in violation of the United States Constitution. The decision in Mapp v. Ohio established that the exclusionary rule applies to evidence gained from an unreasonable search or seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. While the exclusionary rule was once the focus of calls to eliminate it, most of that effort had come to a halt up until Justice Thomas’s most recent opinion.

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