Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31 (1979)

The Supreme Court adopted the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), to deter unreasonable searches and seizures. The exclusionary rule states that evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment will be excluded. The ‘‘good faith’’ exception to the exclusionary rule, created by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), allows evidence seized by the police executing a facially valid search warrant issued by a judge to be admitted in court even though the search warrant was later found to be invalid.

In Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31 (1979), the Supreme Court extended the ‘‘good faith’’ exception to cover searches conducted in good-faith reliance upon a city ordinance that was later determined to be unconstitutional. A Detroit city ordinance authorized police officers to stop and question a person if there was ‘‘reasonable cause’’ to believe that the person’s behavior justified further investigation for criminal activity. Detroit police officers discovered DeFillippo in a compromising situation in an alley with a woman. When asked for identification, DeFillippo failed to identify himself properly, which resulted in his arrest. A subsequent search of DeFillippo turned up illegal drugs.

DeFillippo filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search, arguing that the police officers’ reliance on the city ordinance authorizing a warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and held that the city ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, thus making the arrest and search invalid.

The Supreme Court reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals decision and applied the ‘‘good faith’’ exception to those situations where the police rely upon a city ordinance authorizing a warrantless search, even though the city ordinance was later found to be unconstitutional. The Court felt applying the exclusionary rule in such cases would not deter police misconduct because the police officers were following the law as written, and thus exclusion of the evidence would serve no legitimate purpose.

JENNIFER J. ASHLEY

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961)
  • U.S. v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984)

See also Exclusionary Rule

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