Glenn Reynolds, for a change not at Instapundit:
You can see their reasoning. Herring’s a bad guy. Why punish the police by letting a guilty man go free when they just made a simple mistake?
Except that the rest of us enjoy no such immunity. If you’re a citizen who, say, accidentally carries a gun into a designated “gun-free” zone, the Supreme Court will not say that you can escape punishment because your action was “the result of isolated negligence.” For citizens, there’s no “I forgot” defense.
Likewise, police are given a pass, under the doctrine of “good faith immunity,” from having to understand the intricacies of suspects’ constitutional rights: A right must be clearly established before an officer is liable for violating it, apparently on the theory that constitutional law is just too confusing for police.
But ordinary citizens are expected to comply with the tens of thousands of pages of federal criminal laws and regulations (and more at the state level) and are told that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” – and this is true even in cases where the prosecution’s theory of criminality is a novel one.
Cynics might be forgiven for thinking that, instead of a government of, by and for the people, we’ve got a two-tiered system in which “public servants” instead enjoy the privileges of “public masters.”
The Supreme Court might want to think again before doing more to encourage such cynicism.