Home > SparkCharts > Legal > Criminal Procedure > The Exclusionary Rule

Criminal Procedure


 
 

The Exclusionary Rule

The Exclusionary Rule is the remedy whereby evidence that has been obtained in violation of a defendant’s Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendment rights is excluded from being used against them in the prosecution’s case.

 

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine

All evidence that has been obtained or derived by exploiting unconstitutionally obtained evidence is deemed the “fruit of the poisonous tree” and is thus inadmissible at trial under the exclusionary rule (Wong Sun v. U.S.).

Example: A police officer illegally enters a house without a search warrant and views marijuana on the table. The marijuana cannot be used as evidence against the homeowner.

  1. Exceptions to “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine

    1. Independent source

      The government can show that it had a legal independent source for the evidence.

    2. Inevitable discovery

      The government would have discovered the evidence anyway.

    3. Dissipation of the taint (or doctrine of attenuation)

      One of several attenuating factors may prevent the illegally seized evidence from being treated as “fruit,” such as an act of free will by the defendant, a lengthy causal chain between the illegality and seizure of the evidence, or a long time period between the illegality and seizure of the evidence.

      Example: A police officer illegally enters a house without a search warrant, views marijuana on the table, and arrests the homeowner, Donna. If Donna is released on bail and then returns to the police station and confesses, this intervening act of free will breaks the chain, making the evidence admissible.

 
 

Limitations to the Exclusionary Rule

  1. Grand jury, civil, and parole proceedings

    Unconstitutionally obtained evidence may nonetheless be used in grand jury, civil, and parole proceedings.

  2. Impeaching a defendant-witness

    The prosecution may introduce unconstitutionally obtained evidence for the limited purpose of impeaching a defendant who has taken the stand.

  3. Good faith reliance

    Unconstitutionally obtained evidence may nonetheless be used against a defendant if it was obtained in good faith reliance upon:

    1. Judicial opinion

      Evidence will not be excluded when the police rely in good faith on a judicial opinion that gives them reason to believe their actions are constitutional, even if the opinion is later overruled by another judicial opinion.

    2. Statute

      Evidence will not be excluded when the police rely in good faith on a statute or an ordinance later declared unconstitutional.

    3. Search warrant (United States v. Leon)

      Evidence will not be excluded when the police rely in good faith on a validly issued search warrant later declared defective except:

      1. Dishonest affiant

        The exclusionary rule will apply if the warrant was issued based upon a magistrate’s reliance on information supplied by a police officer who lied or exhibited reckless disregard for the truth in her allegations in the affidavit for search warrant.

      2. A “nonjudicious” magistrate

        The exclusionary rule will apply if the magistrate wholly abandoned her judicial role in issuing the warrant.

      3. Bare-bones affidavit

        The exclusionary rule will apply if the warrant was based on an affidavit so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render the officers reliance upon the warrant unreasonable.

      4. Facially deficient

        The exclusionary rule will apply if the warrant failed to state with particularity the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized.