Constitutional Law and the Criminal Justice System

Topic 1: Exceptions to the Exclusionary Rule

The Fourth Amendment deems it is unconstitutional for government agents to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures without a search warrant and probable cause. Evidence obtained through such methods is inadmissible according to the exclusionary rule. However, some situations allow warrantless searches and seizures. These are exceptions to the exclusionary rule. Supporters of supreme court decisions such as Mapp v. Ohio (1961) believe that these situations that constitute an exception to the rule justify a compromise on constitutional ideals(Jurkowski, 2017; Harr, Hess, Orthmann, & Kingsbury, 2017). One exception that allows warrantless searches is when an individual gives voluntary consent to a police officer or government agent to conduct a warrantless search (Harr, Hess, Orthmann, & Kingsbury, 2017). If the individual is an adult of sound mind, understands their rights, and gives consent to a warrantless search without being coerced, then any evidence obtained is admissible. I agree with this voluntary consent exception, especially if the officers are transparent and disclose everything they intend to do. However, if the person is not of sound mind or the conditions do not qualify a consenting adult, then voluntary consent would be unconstitutional. 

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Topic 2: Stop vs. Arrest

A stop is a brief detention of an individual by law enforcement. It is only justifiable by specific and articulable facts (reasonable suspicion) of criminal activity. The purpose of a stop is to investigate suspicious activity. Stops do not require warrants, and the infringement on a person’s liberty is temporary. Law enforcement may only conduct the search in the form of a pat-down of outer clothing for weapons.

On the other hand, arrests require probable cause as justification and often require a warrant (apart from specified exceptions). Arrests have a wider scope that may include a full search for weapons and evidence in the area within the suspect’s immediate control. During arrests, the police take extensive field notes, including fingerprints, photographs, and booking, which do not happen for stops, and the infringement on one’s liberty is extensive (Harr, Hess, Orthmann, & Kingsbury, 2017). The difference between an arrest and a stop is important, especially because of the constitutional limitations. If a police officer carries out a stop, it becomes unconstitutional because it steps out of its constitutional conditions, such as scope and intensity. The constitutional conditions have to be met for either activity. 




Harr, J. S., Hess, K. M., Orthmann, C. H., & Kingsbury, J. (2017). Constitutional Law and the Criminal Justice System (7th Edition ed.). Cengage Learning.

Jurkowski, S. (2017, June). Exclusionary Rule. Retrieved from Legal Information Institute:


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