Search, Seizure and (False?) Arrest: An Analysis of Fourth Amendment Remedies when Police can Plant Evidence
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures in criminal investigations. The Supreme Court has interpreted this to require that police obtain a warrant prior to search and that illegally seized evidence be excluded from trial. A consensus has developed in the law and economics literature that tort liability for police officers would be a superior means of deterring unreasonable searches. We argue that this conclusion depends on the assumption of truth-seeking police, and develop a game-theoretic model to compare the two remedies when some police officers (“bad” types) are willing to plant evidence in order to obtain convictions, while other police (“good” types) are not (where this type is private information). We characterize the perfect Bayesian equilibria of the asymmetric-information game between the police and a court that seeks to minimize error costs in deciding whether to convict or acquit suspects. In this framework, we show that the exclusionary rule with a warrant requirement leads to superior outcomes (relative to tort liability) in terms of the truth-finding function of courts, because the warrant requirement can reduce the scope for “bad” types of police to plant evidence. JEL Classification: K14, K42 Key words: Exclusionary rule, Fourth Amendment, search and seizure
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