United States v. Leon


Fact summary omitted from case. See brief description above.


Is there a “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule?


Yes, there is such an exception. The justices held that evidence seized on the basis of a mistakenly issued search warrant could be introduced at trial. The exclusionary rule, argued the majority, is not a right but a remedy justified by its ability to deter illegal police conduct. In Leon, the costs of the exclusionary rule outweighed the benefits. The exclusionary rule is costly to society: Guilty defendants go unpunished and people lose respect for the law. The benefits of the exclusionary rule are uncertain: The rule cannot deter police in a case like Leon, where they act in good faith on a warrant issued by a judge.


This case presents the good faith exception provided to law enforcement officials in reliance upon search warrants issued by neutral and detached judges that later are revealed to be lacking in probable cause. The officer must reasonably rely upon the search warrant while obtaining the evidence. The judge must be neutral and detached. The affiant must not have provided false information.

Rex E. Lee Argued the cause for the United States, Barry Tarlow Argued the cause for the respondent Leon, Roger L. Cossack Argued the cause for the respondents Stewart et al
Residence of Alberto Leon
Alberto Leon
United States
Burger Court
468 US 897 (1984)
Jan 17, 1984
Jul 5, 1984