So after reading the Heien v. NC opinons, I am left to wonder how to square the court's previous precedent on remedies (exclusion, good faith, etc.) with the finding of no 4th amendment violation at all.
This seems particularly difficult because the answer is tied up with the other unresolved issue of what amount of knowledge of the law is reasonable for an officer to have.
Kagan seems to want to limit it to places where reasonable judges could reasonably disagree but the other justices do not seem to have such a limitation, but rather seem comfortable with the less exacting requirement of it being objectively reasonable for the officer to think that is the law. Yeah, neither of those is vague or ripe for argument (cue sarcasm).
And when the court says a sloppy reading of the law isn't enough--what does sloppy mean?
I get that SCOTUS on all fronts wants to limit the applicability of this decision but it seems to me that, in typical fashion, they did nothing of the sort and gave no clear guidance of how to apply this out of the context of the case they decided.
Given that this is another opinion dropped on the States and left for us all to argue and figure out, what are y'alls thoughts on how to apply this decision going forward? How will you avoid pushing the envelope and avoid the bad-facts-make-bad-law trap but still make use of this tool in your toolbox for the cases that merit it?
Going forward, I would continue to focus the analysis on whether a generic police officer -- when put into the specific shoes of the police officer making the at-issue seizure -- could objectively see the mistake of law as one that was reasonable under the specific facts of the at-issue seizure. If, for example, a Dallas police officer makes a DWI stop for driving over the fog line, and the only appellate opinions on the statute come from the 6th and 9th COAs (and each reached a different conclusion), then the specific police officer's mistake of law should be objectively reasonable under the specific circumstances. See Heien, No. 13-604, slip op. at 11. Or, to use langugage from J. Kagan's concurring opinion, "A court tasked with deciding whether an officer's mistake of law can support a seizure thus faces a straightforward question of statutory construction. If the statute is genuinely ambiguous, such that overturning the officer's judgment requires hard interpretative work, then the officer was made a(n objectively) reasonable mistake. But if not, not." See id., slip op. at 2-3 (Kagan, J., concurring).
At bottom Heien recognizes at least two things: (1) the continuation of an objective reasonableness standard for reviewing situations involving warrantless seizures, and (2) a mistake-of-law exception to the exclusionary rule.
That makes sense. Although the one quibble I would have with your bottom line is that Heien seems to say mistake-of-law isn't so much an exception to the exclusionary rule, but rather such a mistake, if objectively reasonable, isn't a violation of the 4th amendment at all, hence there being no need to exclude anything. That to me is different than saying the 4th amendment was violated but there is an exception making exclusion of evidence unnecessary.
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