House Passes Legislation For Good Faith Exception In Criminal Law

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

HB 401, “The Exclusionary Rule Reform Act,” passed the full House on Wednesday. The final vote was 89-9.

Rep. Eric Watson (R—Cleveland), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had been the chief sponsor of the bill.

His office said, "Chairman Watson has been a vigilant leader when it comes to protecting the rights and security of victims. Recent news reports have shown an alarming trend with violent criminals taking advantage of a loophole in Tennessee’s legal code."

HB 401 creates a “good faith exception” to the Exclusionary Rule "so courts will have an legitimate alternative to allow evidence to be heard in a case and sets out a clear definition so there will be clarity on the issue."

Chairman Watson said, “Criminals and defense attorneys have taken advantage of this loophole for years causing violent offenders, including murderers, to be released from jail because of small clerical errors. In an effort to protect society and honor victims, I am proud to say we have closed this loophole.”

He said one news report revealed a convicted drug dealer serving 29 years for drug dealing and weapons charges will be set free because of a minor clerical error on a search warrant. When the typographical error was discovered, the Criminal Court of Appeals ruled it constituted a “fatal flaw” and all the evidence gathered in the execution of the investigation must be discarded. The flaw was a time signature that read 10:35 p.m. when the warrant was actually written at 10:35 a.m. He said, "HB 401 will close these types of loopholes for criminals."


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