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Copyright (c) 1988 Georgetown Law Journal
Georgetown Law Journal

ARTICLE: Are State Courts Enforcing the Fourth Amendment? A Preliminary Study.

December, 1988

77 Geo. L.J. 251





In its 1976 decision in Stone v. Powell, 1 the Supreme Court withdrew jurisdiction from the lower federal courts to entertain habeas corpus petitions from prisoners who alleged that they had been convicted on the basis of evidence obtained in violation of the fourth amendment. 2 The Court noted that "Fourth Amendment violations . . . do not impugn the integrity of the fact finding process." 3 It then reasoned that the purpose of the exclusionary rule was deterrence and that there is no

reason to assume that any specific disincentive already created by the risk of exclusion of evidence at trial or the reversal of convictions on direct review would be enhanced if there were the further risk that a conviction obtained in state court and affirmed on direct review might be overturned in collateral proceedings often occurring years after the incarceration of the defendant. 4

That is, applying the sort of economic analysis that the Court has consistently invoked in its criminal procedure decisions in recent years, 5 the cost of federal habeas -- interfering with the finality of state convictions -- is not worth the benefit -- furthering the deterrent impact of the exclusionary rule. 6 The Court dismissed as unfounded the argument that "state courts can't be trusted to effectuate Fourth Amendment values." 7

This streamlining of federal habeas jurisdiction has met with some disagreement. In his dissent, Justice Brennan countered that "the availability of collateral remedies is necessary to insure the integrity of ...
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