What should I know about the exclusionary rule?

| Mar 1, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Law enforcement must respect your rights even if they suspect you of a serious crime. This means that when the police gather evidence from you, they must have a warrant or probable cause. When they cross the line and take something from you in violation of your constitutional rights, it can jeopardize a case against you.

As FindLaw explains, the concept of the exclusionary rule developed in case law and is applicable to the states. This means that if the police gather evidence against you while violating your rights, you can seek to have the evidence thrown out.

Applying the exclusionary rule

In the event the police unlawfully seize evidence, you can file a pre-trial motion to exclude the evidence from trial before it begins. If a judge grants the motion, the prosecution cannot present the evidence in court. As a result, a judge or jury cannot consider the evidence while determining your guilt or innocence.

However, even if a court does not agree that the evidence is inadmissible, you might be able to appeal to a higher court if the lower court convicts you. You could challenge the lower court’s decision to admit the evidence. Be aware that this does not stop a lower court from retrying the case since your appeal would not involve the question of your innocence or guilt.

Fruit of the poisonous tree

You may have heard of the concept of the fruit of the poisonous tree. It is similar but not the same as the exclusionary rule. Nonetheless, it can also exclude evidence gathered unfairly against you. This concept states that if the police conduct an illegal search and seize evidence that would implicate you in another crime, a court may consider that evidence tainted and not admissible in court.

These options show that law enforcement has strict obligations to respect your rights when it comes to evidence. However, a court will not automatically throw out tainted evidence. It is important to know these defenses exist so that you may use them if called for.