Good-Faith Exception to Exclusionary Rule

CaseState of Tennessee v. Jerome Antonio McElrath

Issue:  Does the “good-faith exception” exclude evidence collected from an arrest that was based on erroneous police information?

Facts:  Defendant was on a “barred list” from entering a housing project. Although he should have been removed from the list, a clerical error caused his name to remain. Police relied on the erroneous “barred list” in arresting Defendant for trespass. During a search incident to arrest, Defendant was found in possession of drugs and was arrested for that as well. The trial court suppressed the evidence because Defendant should not have been arrested for trespass prior to the search. The State appealed.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court affirmed the suppression, but left open the door for the Tennessee Supreme Court to expand the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule. The court noted that, in State v. Reynolds, the Supreme Court had specifically recognized the good-faith exception only when law enforcement acted in reliance on then-binding appellate precedent. However, the Supreme Court noted that it was not necessarily recognizing the exception in other contexts.

Review Granted:  October 5, 2017.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court is likely to allow the evidence and expand the good-faith exception. The same policy considerations recognized in Reynolds largely exist here under the Court’s view that exclusion should not go beyond deterring intentional police misconduct. On the other hand, it could present an opportunity to reign in expansion of the exception for the reasons recognized in Justice Lee’s dissent in Reynolds.

ABOUT Ben Raybin
Ben Raybin

A Nashville native, Ben began his legal career with Raybin & Weissman after graduating from Vanderbilt University Law School in 2010.

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