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The Exclusionary Rule
is available to a Defendant in a criminal case as a remedy for illegal
searches that violate the rights set forth in the Fourth Amendment.
When applicable, the rule dictates that the evidence illegally obtained
must be excluded as evidence under the Fourth Amendment. One important corollary to the Exclusionary
Rule is the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. This
rule holds that, in addition to the material uncovered during the illegal
search being inadmissible, any evidence that is later gathered as an
indirect result of the illegal search will also be excluded.
EXAMPLE (1) The police illegally search D’s car and find drugs. The drugs will be excluded as evidence in the case against D in accordance with the Exclusionary Rule.
EXAMPLE (2) The police conduct an illegal search of D’s home and find a map showing the location of a well-hidden, remotely located outdoor marijuana field. The police go to the field and seize the marijuana. Under the doctrine of "fruit of the poisonous tree," the marijuana will be excluded as evidence in the case against D as it stemmed directly from an illegal search.
There are two important exceptions to the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine:
- If the police had an independent source of knowledge of the evidence aside from the fruits of the illegal search, then the doctrine will not exclude the discovered evidence.
- If discovery of the evidence was "inevitable", the evidence may be admitted, as it was not then the illegal search that caused the evidence to be found. “Inevitable” is a strong word, and in order to admit evidence under this exception, a court must find that police would have discovered the evidence whether or not they conducted the unreasonable search.
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