A University of Utah law professor and a state senator have drafted a proposed amendment to the Utah Constitution to make it easier for prosecutors to use evidence improperly seized.

Law professor Paul Cassell said the state's exclusionary rule as interpreted by Utah courts goes beyond federal protections, confusing police and allowing some criminals to go free.Cassell and state Sen. Winn Richards have drafted legislation to change that. During the next legislative session, Richards will introduce a bill to amend the Utah Constitution, eliminating the state's exclusionary rule. Protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution would remain.

A draft of the bill states "no relevant evidence shall be excluded in any criminal or civil proceeding, trial or hearing under Utah Constitution, Article 1, Section 14."

If approved the Legislature, the proposed amendment would go before voters in November.

Similar legislation was introduced last year and passed the Senate, 22-1. A House committee, however, held it up for further study.

Cassell expects the bill to have public support. When it comes to the exclusionary rule, the public generally sides with prosecutors and police, he said.

Civil libertarians and defense attorneys are preparing to fight the bill.

Kathryn Kendell, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Utah chapter, said the amendment proposed by Cassell and Richards is an overreaction to rulings they find unappealing.

The way to prevent suppression of evidence in criminal trials is to train police in correct search and seizure procedures, she said.

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"If you don't have the weapon of suppression, there is no incentive for law enforcement to obey the law and comply with constitutional protections."

The ACLU plans to lobby against the legislation, but she concedes it will be a tough fight.

The bill's backers "can pit the bad guy drug runners against good-guy law enforcement. Unfortunately, what we've been seeing in many recent cases is that it's law enforcement wearing the black hat.

"The problem is if you give law enforcement the power to ignore the Constitution, today it might be the guy who has drugs in his car on I-70, but tomorrow it's cops coming into your house on some anonymous tip."

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