An important theme in Fourth Amendment law these days is the rights/remedy gap. Over the past few years, courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment broadly in some interesting ways. But when they have, a broad “good-faith exception” kicks in and takes away any remedy for the violation that results from the court’s broad interpretation. The result makes a lot of high-profile Fourth Amendment litigation mostly prospective. It’s often clear at the outset that the defendant will lose eventually. The litigation is mostly about whether the defendant will lose on the right or lose on the remedy, with the difference being the prospective application of the rule.
To be clear, I’m no fan of this development. I have argued against it in articles (here and here) and in briefs and argument in Davis v. United States. But the Supreme Court is going in a different direction, so that’s all just academic.
That brings me to a new case on the rights/remedy gap, Rodriguez v. United States, handed down Thursday by the Eighth Circuit. Rodriguez is on remand from April’s Supreme Court decision of the same name, which held that the government violated the Fourth Amendment by extending a traffic stop for seven or eight minutes while waiting for drug-sniffing dogs. According to the Supreme Court in Rodriguez, a traffic stop must end “when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are — or reasonably should have been — completed.” The Fourth Amendment does not permit an extension to wait for the dogs, so Rodriguez’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
On remand, the Eighth Circuit says that Rodriguez loses anyway. Eighth Circuit law “provided that a brief delay to employ a drug dog did not constitute an unconstitutional seizure, as long as the traffic stop was not unreasonably prolonged.” Because the stop here was not unreasonably prolonged, the Davis good-faith exception applies, and there is no remedy for the violation. In response to Rodriguez’s point that he wouldn’t have litigated the case to the Supreme Court if he had known he would have lost anyway on the remedy, the Eighth Circuit offers the Supreme Court’s answer from Davis: “[A] good-faith exception for objectively reasonable reliance on binding precedent will not prevent review and correction of such decisions” because “defendants in jurisdictions in which the question remains open will still have an undiminished incentive to litigate the issue.” In other words, Rodriguez’s incentive doesn’t matter. If he hadn’t litigated the issue, someone else might have.
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"If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. It isn't, and they don't."
“I am still learning.”
—Domenico Giuntalodi (but misattributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti (common phrase throughout 1500's)).
"Love work; hate mastery over others; and avoid intimacy with the government."
—Shemaya, in the Thalmud
"A system of law that not only makes certain conduct criminal, but also lays down rules for the conduct of the authorities, often becomes complex in its application to individual cases, and will from time to time produce imperfect results, especially if one's attention is confined to the particular case at bar. Some criminals do go free because of the necessity of keeping government and its servants in their place. That is one of the costs of having and enforcing a Bill of Rights. This country is built on the assumption that the cost is worth paying, and that in the long run we are all both freer and safer if the Constitution is strictly enforced."
—Williams v. Nix, 700 F. 2d 1164, 1173 (8th Cir. 1983) (Richard Sheppard Arnold, J.), rev'd Nix v. Williams, 467 US. 431 (1984).
"The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence."
—Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 659 (1961).
"Any costs the exclusionary rule are costs imposed directly by the Fourth Amendment."
—Yale Kamisar, 86 Mich.L.Rev. 1, 36 n. 151 (1987).
"There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater than it is today."
— Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 39 (1968) (Douglas, J., dissenting).
"The great end, for which men entered into society, was to secure their property."
—Entick v. Carrington, 19 How.St.Tr. 1029, 1066, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 (C.P. 1765)
"It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people. And so, while we are concerned here with a shabby defrauder, we must deal with his case in the context of what are really the great themes expressed by the Fourth Amendment."
—United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 69 (1950) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting)
"The course of true law pertaining to searches and seizures, as enunciated here, has not–to put it mildly–run smooth."
—Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610, 618 (1961) (Frankfurter, J., concurring).
"A search is a search, even if it happens to disclose nothing but the bottom of a turntable."
—Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321, 325 (1987)
"For the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection. ... But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected."
—Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967)
“Experience should teach us to be most on guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
—United States v. Olmstead, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1925) (Brandeis, J., dissenting)
“Liberty—the freedom from unwarranted intrusion by government—is as easily lost through insistent nibbles by government officials who seek to do their jobs too well as by those whose purpose it is to oppress; the piranha can be as deadly as the shark.”
—United States v. $124,570, 873 F.2d 1240, 1246 (9th Cir. 1989)
"You can't always get what you want / But if you try sometimes / You just might find / You get what you need."
—Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
"In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came for me–and by that time there was nobody left to speak up."
—Martin Niemöller (1945) [he served seven years in a concentration camp]
“You know, most men would get discouraged by now. Fortunately for you, I am not most men!”"The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime."
---Pepé Le Pew
—Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14 (1948)
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