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The exemption allows evidence collected in violation of privacy rights as interpreted from the Fourth Amendment to be admitted at trial if police officers acting in good faith (bona fides) relied upon a defective search warrant — that is, they had reason to believe their actions were legal (measured under the reasonable person test).
The rule was established in the two companion cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984: United States v. Leon (468 U.S. 897) and Massachusetts v. Sheppard (468 U.S. 981). The exception permits the courts to consider the mental state of the police officer.
The ruling is in contrast to Horton v. California (1990) where the court opined:
[E]venhanded law enforcement is best achieved by the
application of objective standards of conduct, rather than standards that depend upon the subjective state of mind of the officer.
in this case supporting the plain view doctrine.
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