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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
Alberto Leon
(Argued the cause for the United States)
(Argued the cause for the respondent Leon)
(Argued the cause for the respondents Stewart et al)
Facts of the Case 

The exclusionary rule requires that evidence illegally seized must be excluded from criminal trials. Leon was the target of police surveillance based on an anonymous informant's tip. The police applied to a judge for a search warrant of Leon's home based on the evidence from their surveillance. A judge issued the warrant and the police recovered large quantities of illegal drugs. Leon was indicted for violating federal drug laws. A judge concluded that the affadavit for the search warrant was insufficient; it did not establish the probable cause necessary to issue the warrant. Thus, the evidence obtained under the warrant could not be introduced at Leon's trial.


Is there a "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule?

Decision: 6 votes for United States, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Exclusionary Rule (admissibility of evidence allegedly in violation of the Fourth Amendment)

Yes, there is such an exception. The justices held that evidence seized on the basis of a mistakenly issued search warrant could be introduced at trial. The exclusionary rule, argued the majority, is not a right but a remedy justified by its ability to deter illegal police conduct. In Leon, the costs of the exclusionary rule outweighed the benefits. The exclusionary rule is costly to society: Guilty defendants go unpunished and people lose respect for the law. The benefits of the exclusionary rule are uncertain: The rule cannot deter police in a case like Leon, where they act in good faith on a warrant issued by a judge.

Cite this Page
UNITED STATES v. LEON. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 September 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1771>.
UNITED STATES v. LEON, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1771 (last visited September 3, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. LEON," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 3, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1771.