Exemption to the Exclusionary Rule

Exemption to the Exclusionary Rule

CRJ335 – Laws of Evidence

Colorado State University Global

Keith Scott was charged with third-degree murder and plead no contest to the charges. Scott served ten years of a 10 to 20 year sentence before being released on parole in 1993. In 1994, just five months after he was paroled, Scott was arrested on a warrant claiming that he had violated the terms of his parole by possessing firearms (Stevens, 1999). Scott willingly gave his house keys, the keys to his parents home, to the arresting officer who, in turn, gave the keys to Scott’s companion. When they arrived at the residence, the officer instructed Scott’s companion to unlock the door, and the companion complied and then contacted the homeowner, Scott’s mother (Stevens, 1999). After her arrival, the officers entered the home, informing her that they were conducting a search, but did not ask Scott’s mother for her consent to enter the home, or to search Scott’s bedroom. When they did not find any evidence to support the claims of parole violation, the officers moved to another room in the house, again, without the consent of Scott’s mother (Stevens, 1999). In the second room, several firearms were found; Scott was arrested.

The weapons found in the home were entered into evidence at Scott’s hearing to revoke his parole. Scott maintained that the search of the second room was in violation of the 4th Amendment, but the officer claimed that in addition to the search of his room, common areas could be searched “based on a tip about weapons concealed in the house” (Stevens, 1999). Scott would have to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence, plus three more years (Stevens, 1999).

Eventually, Scott was able to successfully appeal to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, who found that the seizure of the firearms was, in fact, unconstitutional and that the illegally obtained evidence should have been suppressed (Stevens, 1999). The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Pennsylvania Court decision, “holding that parole boards are not required by the Constitution to exclude illegally obtained evidence” Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation & Parole v. Scott, 118 S. Ct. 2014, 2017-18 (1998).


Scott was not alone in his claim of 4th Amendment violations, “lower courts were split among several alternatives regarding the application of the exclusionary rule to parole and probation hearings, and the Court had denied certiorari in several cases that addressed this issue” (Stevens, 1999). The rights of parolees’ and probationers’ had been debated for several years prior to Scott’s case. Mempa and Morrissey both affirmed that the rights parolees and probationers “include many of the core values of unqualified liberty”, Mempa v. Rhay, 389 U.S. 128 (1967); Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480 (1972). The decision of the Scott’s case broadcasted that the U.S. Constitution put a very defined limit on searches conducted on parolees, which opposed the established reasonings in the 30 year old Morrissey and Mempa cases.


Although the exclusionary rule is in place to discourage improper procedures by law enforcement (Gardner & Anderson, 2016), the Supreme Court overruled Pennsylvania, emphasizing that violating the 4th Amendment by using illegally obtained evidence does not violate the U.S. Constitution, United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 906 (1984); Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 482, 486 (1976). The exclusionary rule does not “proscribe the introduction of illegally seized evidence in all proceedings or against all persons” Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 482, 486 (1976).


Personally, I agree with the decision of the Supreme Court on the basis that parole supervision is a correctional device that authorizes the service of sentence outside of a penitentiary, Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, (1972). A parolee is technically still in the custody of a correctional entity and is not entitled to the same rights as ordinary citizens. Additionally, revocation hearings are not the same as criminal trials. Parole hearings and revocation of parole hearings are administrative; parole officers are an administrative role; parole agencies are administrative agencies; and the revocation of parole is not a part of a criminal prosecution. Lastly, as stated in the Stone v. Powell case, the exclusionary rule does not forbid the introduction of evidence obtained illegally. While I do not agree with the methods of the officers wholeheartedly, Scott did violate the terms of his parole and I feel that that the right call was made at his initial revocation hearing.


Gardner, T. J., & Anderson, T. M. (2016). Criminal evidence: principles and cases (9th ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Cengage Learning.

Mempa v. Rhay, 389 U.S. 128 (1967)

Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480 (1972)

Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation & Parole v. Scott, 118 S. Ct. 2014, 2017-18 (1998)

Stevens, D. N. (1999). Off the Mapp: Parole Revocation Hearings and the Fourth Amendment. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 89(3), 1047. https://doi.org/10.2307/1144130

Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 482, 486 (1976)

United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 906 (1984)

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