Exclusionary Rule: What You Need To Know

Exclusionary Rule

If you’ve ever been a fan of legal procedural shows like Law & Order, you will be familiar with the ramifications of the exclusionary rule.

The story line: the detectives get yelled at by the District Attorney for violating a suspect’s Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights. This usually happens during the high point of the trial. Some important piece of evidence gets excluded from trial. Then the defense attorney is granted a motion to suppress evidence and the criminal is in danger of being allowed to go free.

In addition, some sort of legal maneuvering or expert cross-examination is then required by the D.A. to get the guilty conviction despite the mess-up by detectives.

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

This whole production goes by the charming legal name of “fruit of the poisonous tree.” It is a legal doctrine in place to prevent the basic rights of any suspect from being violated. The poisonous tree is the violation of the Constitutional rights. The fruit refers to the evidence collected in violation of said rights.

By definition, the exclusionary rule prevents the use of most evidence gathered in violation of the United States Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was put in place to protect citizens “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Seizures meaning that law enforcement may not take anything which belongs to you unless they have a warrant to do so.

In order to get a warrant, law enforcement must show probable cause. They must have a compelling reason to get a warrant to search or seize your possessions.

Therefore, if the evidence presented at your trial was gathered in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, it will be ruled inadmissible in court. It can’t be used against you.

This rule allows for the exclusion or suppression of evidence. Additionally, the rule covers several other violations of your constitutional rights:

  • If you are arrested illegally
  • If you are the subject of illegal wiretapping
  • Or if you have been subjected to an illegal interrogation, the evidence collected by law enforcement during those events can be ruled inadmissible in court.

Exclusionary Rule Exceptions

The exclusionary rule is not meant to apply to an extent that justice cannot be served. Accordingly, there are exceptions to the exclusionary rule:

  1. The Good Faith Exception
    This exception allows evidence obtained under a search warrant law enforcement believes to be valid – even if it was not technically valid at the time of the search or was later determined to be invalid.
  2. Attenuation Doctrine
    This doctrine allows evidence obtained illegally to be admitted at trial if the illegal means by which it was obtained and the evidence are only remotely connected. For example, if you are pulled over by a police officer for no reason, but it is found that there is a warrant for your arrest, any evidence collected against you would probably still be admissible in court.
  3. Independent Source Doctrine
    This one gets played sometimes on TV. It basically means if someone can go in and obtain the same evidence legally that was gathered illegally, the evidence will be admissible.
  4. Inevitable Discovery Rule
    If the evidence would eventually have been discovered through legal means, even if it was obtained illegally in the first place, it will be ruled admissible in court.

Take Away

All persons in this country, no matter how apparently guilty, are protected by the U.S. Constitution. If your rights are violated in the course of your arrest, you may have valid reasons to have evidence against you omitted from your trial.

In conclusion, having an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side is critical if you are facing charges. Please reach out today and call my office. Let’s start fighting for your freedom.

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