Arizona v. Evans

LOCATION: Phoenix Police Department

DOCKET NO.: 93-1660
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Arizona Supreme Court

CITATION: 514 US 1 (1995)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1994
DECIDED: Mar 01, 1995
GRANTED: May 31, 1994

Carol A. Carrigan - on behalf of the Respondent
Gerald R. Grant - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

In January 1991, Phoenix police officer Bryan Sargent observed Isaac Evans driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Sargent directed Evans to pull over and asked to see his license. Evans informed Sargent that his license was suspended, and upon running the license, Sargent found that there was also an outstanding warrant for Evans’ arrest. During the arrest, Evans dropped a hand-rolled cigarette that smelled of marijuana, so officers searched his car and discovered a bag of marijuana. When Evans was charged with possession of marijuana, the police were informed that his arrest warrant had been quashed and only remained on the record due to a clerical error. Evans moved to exclude the marijuana evidence because it was discovered during the course of an illegal arrest. The trial court granted the motion.

The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed and held that the exclusionary rule was not intended to deter government employees who were not directly associated with the arrest. The Arizona Supreme Court reversed and held there was no meaningful distinction between clerical errors committed by law enforcement personnel and those committed by court employees.


Does the exclusionary rule prohibit the introduction of the evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment on the basis of an erroneous police record?

Media for Arizona v. Evans

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1994 in Arizona v. Evans

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 01, 1995 in Arizona v. Evans

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the court to announce in number 93-6060, Arizona versus Evans.

During a routine traffic stop, Phoenix police officers arrested the respondent when their patrol car computer indicated that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Incident to the arrest, the police discovered a bag of marijuana in respondent’s car.

Because the computer record upon which the police had relied was erroneous, there was in fact no outstanding warrant.

Respondent moved to suppress the marijuana as the fruit of an illegal search.

The Arizona Supreme Court determined that the exclusionary rule applied to the marijuana seized even if before the computer record was attributable to an error committed by a court employee.

We granted certiorari to determine whether the exclusionary rule encompasses such evidence and in an opinion filed with the court today we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Arizona.

The exclusionary rule is the sanction that is appropriate only where the rule’s deterrent function is served.

It historically was not designed to deter a conduct by a court employee.

There is no evidence that court employees are inclined to ignore or subvert the Fourth Amendment and there is no basis for believing that implication of the exclusionary rule will have a significant deterrent of the fact on court employees.

Finally application of the exclusionary rule could not be expected to alter the conduct of the arresting officer in this case, because there is no indication that he acted unreasonably when he relied up on the computer record.

We conclude that the exclusionary rule does not require a suppression of evidence, seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where the police rely upon an erroneous computer record, attributable to a clerical error by a court employee.

Justice O’Conner has filed the concurring opinion joined by Justice Souter and Justice Breyer.

Justice Souter has filed a concurring opinion joined by Justice Breyer.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Stevens.