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The exclusionary rule and the fruit of the poisonous tree

A common misperception by the public is that any evidence discovered by police can be used in the prosecution of accused defendants. But as was described in a recent blog post, there are rules governing search warrants and the evidence produced in police searches.

There's also another legal doctrine at play in search-and-seizure arrests: the exclusionary rule. As it is related to your Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, we will explain how it affects the prosecution's case against you.

What does this rule mean?

Evidence obtained by police during illegal and/or unreasonable searches and seizures can be legally excluded from trial. The premise of the exclusionary rule is that any information gleaned or evidence recovered in these problematic searches is thus barred from being introduced in court against the defendant.

How it came to be excluded

Defendants didn't always enjoy such protections. In fact, it wasn't until 1914 when in Weeks v. United States the Supreme Court determined that a defendant's conviction should be reversed because a federal agent on a warrantless search seized evidence of an alleged crime. This decision was solidified for the state courts in 1961 in Mapp v. Ohio.

Why this rule is so important

Without the exclusionary rule in place, police can engage in misconduct, plant evidence and set defendants up for bogus charges. The rule allows defendants to submit pre-trial motions challenging whether the evidence against them is legitimate and admissible or should be excluded and suppressed at trial.

The exclusionary rule can also be used post-conviction as the basis of an appeal.

The fruit of the poisonous tree

Another concept related to this rule is the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine. Your Harris County criminal defense attorney can successfully argue to the court that the prosecution's evidence must be tossed out because it is the product of the fruit of the poisonous tree and inadmissible in court.

Facing charges? Build a stalwart defense

Introducing these legal doctrines into your defense strategy is complicated and best left to your legal counsel for optimum results. However, learning all that you can about the defense options that are open to you can help increase your chances for an acquittal or dismissal of charges.

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