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Detroit Legal Blog

What is the Exclusionary Rule of Searches and Seizures?

Aug 25, 2017, by Maurice Davis in Constitutional Law, Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

For a long period of time, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution held minimal power for criminal defendants due to the fact that law enforcement officers who seized evidence without reasonableness or warrant requirements were allowed to use such evidence in prosecuting defendants. It took a Supreme Court decision entitled Weeks v. United States in 1914 to change the application of the Fourth Amendment in courts moving forward. It introduced something referred to as the exclusionary rule of searches and seizures.

The landmark decision concerned a case involving a federal agent seizing evidence without a warrant or other constitutional authority that would be used in the prosecution of a defendant who was ultimately convicted based on that evidence. The defendant appealed the case to the Supreme Court and won the appeal. More than four decades later in 1961, the Supreme Court determined that the exclusionary rule is applicable to the states.

If you are in the midst of a legal issue involving a questionable search and seizure of your own person or property, it’s important for you to have intelligent legal representation to secure your rights. Don’t leave yourself without the valuable advocacy that is skilled Detroit criminal defense lawyer from our team at Davis Law Group can provide.

Call us today at (313) 818-3238 or contact through our online form to schedule a free, case evaluation.

The Exclusionary Rule Used by Courts

The courts in the United States utilize the exclusionary rule of searches and seizures to prevent law enforcement officers and other agents of the government from violating the constitutional rights of individuals. This rule calls for the suppression of evidence that the government secures through conduct that is unconstitutional – specifically, and very often an unlawful search or seizure. This means in most cases the evidence captured through these means will not be admissible in a defendant’s potential trial. With such evidence suppressed by a judge, many times the prosecution has little alternative other than to drop the charges against the defendant.

This rule is applicable to evidence that is directly secured as a result of a constitutional violation. As well, it has application when the violation in question leads the police or investigator to other incriminating evidence.Therefore, an illegal search can nullify the use of any and all evidence recovered as a result of the search even if a portion of the evidence was seized in a lawful manner.

Motion to Suppress Evidence

Defendants can use the rule to challenge evidence admissibility by filing a pretrial motion for suppression of the evidence. If the case does go to trial due to a denial of the pretrial motion for suppression, and the defendant is found guilty, the defendant can challenge on appeal the appropriateness of the court’s decision to suppress. If the appeal is successful, the Supreme Court has ruled that double jeopardy principles do not prevent a retrial of the case against the defendant – the reason is that the error of the court did not directly address the innocence or guilt of the defendant.

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

As a complement to the exclusionary rule of searches and seizures, the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine enables a court to exclude not only the evidence that was seized during an unlawful search, but also other evidence eventually obtained through the illegal search. For example, if a password was obtained illegally and is then excluded from the case, then any information obtained through the use of that password is the fruit of the poisonous tree and must also be excluded as evidence from the case.

Exceptions to Inadmissibility of Evidence

There are certain exceptions to the exclusionary rule in order to balance the need for justice to be served in certain situations that require such exceptions. They are as follows:

  • Good Faith Exception – This allows evidence obtained by officers who uses search warrant they believe is valid.
  • Independent Source Doctrine – This allows evidence obtained in an illegal manner if the same evidence was legally obtained later by an independent party.
  • Attenuation Doctrine – This allows evidence illegally obtained if the connection between the illegal method of obtaining the evidence and the evidence itself is significantly remote.
  • Inevitable Discovery – This allows evidence obtained improperly when it is obviously apparent the evidence would have otherwise been discovered in a legal manner.

Contact a Skilled Detroit Criminal Defense Lawyer

Have the police asked to perform a search of your home or vehicle? Or, do you feel you have been wrongly searched? Regardless of your current search and seizure issue, our team at Davis Law Group understands how to fight to protect your rights with effective and vigorous legal representation.

Set up a free consultation with a Detroit criminal defense attorney from our team. Call us today at (313) 818-3238.