No Good Faith Exception To The Exclusionary Rule Under New Mexico Law

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution affords us the right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The guiding force behind search and seizure is our reasonable expectation of privacy. If there is a reasonable expectation of privacy a warrant is needed before the police may search or seize one’s person or property. The exclusionary rule describes the long standing legal principle that evidence seized illegally will be suppressed and inadmissible in court.

Like the Fourth Amendment, Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico State Constitution provides the citizens of New Mexico with protections against unlawful searches and seizures. Since each state court may interpret their own Constitution to provide more protections for its citizens, differences between the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment and the New Mexico State Constitution often arise with New Mexico courts erring on the side of greater protection.

New Mexico state courts have frequently interpreted Article II, Section 10 to afford more protection to the citizens of New Mexico from unlawful searches and seizures than are provided for by  the Fourth Amendment as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court.

The exclusionary rule originated in the 1914, United States Supreme Court decision Weeks v. United States and for more than half a century after that decision evidence that was seized illegally was suppressed and inadmissible in court. Seventy years later in United States v. Leon, the U.S. Supreme Court announced the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

In Leon, the Court reasoned that the exclusionary rule deterred police conduct that violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court permitted the use of evidence at trial seized by officers who in good faith “reasonably rely[ed] on a warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate” even though the warrant was later ruled to have been unlawfully issued.

The Court outlined three reasons for creating the good faith exception to the basic exclusionary rule. First, the exclusionary rule was designed to deter police misconduct, not to punish the errors of judges and magistrates. Second, there is no evidence that judges and magistrates are inclined to ignore the Fourth Amendment. And finally, there is no reason to believe that exclusion of evidence seized pursuant to a warrant will have a significant deterrent effect on the judge that issued the warrant.

The New Mexico Supreme Court rejected the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule in the 1993 New Mexico Supreme Court case of State v. Gutierrez.   The New Mexico Supreme Court does not view the purpose of the exclusionary rule as limited to the deterrence of police misconduct.

Instead, the Court focused on the constitutional rights afforded by Article II, Section 10 of the State Constitution of the individual to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and concluded that such reasoning was incompatible with any exception based on the good-faith reliance of the officer.

The exclusionary rule is not a rule of evidence designed solely to deter police misconduct. The rule is to protect citizens against unreasonable search and seizure no matter how it may arise.  When evidence is illegally seized in New Mexico, even in good faith, it will be suppressed and the citizen‘s rights under the State‘s Constitution are protected.

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