Guest Blog: The Exclusionary Rule

By Paige Pippin*

Photo courtesy of Touro Law Review.

Photo courtesy of Touro Law Review.

The exclusionary rule is put into effect as a branch off of the Fourth Amendment. It protects citizens from illegally obtained evidence being used against them in court. This can be applied if the evidence was obtained through a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel or statements of self-incrimination in a violation of the Fifth Amendment for example. This rule is vital to what evidence is allowed in court. It can make or break a case.

“Fruit of the poisonous tree” is a commonly used term associated with the exclusionary rule. It means that any evidence that is found because of any illegally obtained evidence is also inadmissible in court. This term was established in the case of Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920). It holds three basic principles. “The evidence will not be excluded (1) if it was discovered from a source independent of the illegal activity; (2) its discovery was inevitable; or (3) if there is attenuation between the illegal activity and the discovery of the evidence.”

The court has made some exceptions that outweigh the exclusion of evidence obtained illegally.

The Good Faith Exception which is designed to protect officers who obtained evidence when they truly believed they had a valid warrant when in fact they did not.

The Independent Source Doctrine that evidence that was first established as inadmissible may later be obtained through a valid search and seizure warrant.

Inevitable Discovery Doctrine will protect evidence that was found illegally but would have been found anyways without a warrant.

Attenuation Doctrine is where evidence may have an extremely small relationship with the illegal search and seizure and therefore can be refined and made admissible.

Evidence Admissible for Impeachment is where inadmissible evidence may not be used as a way to find the accused guilty but can be used to discredit him/her.

Finally, Qualified Immunity is used to protect the police officer/s that gathered the illegal evidence. It protects them from having a law suit filed against them as long as other officers believe that s/he acted in legal manner.

Every case obviously has different facts that may or may not apply to this rule and if they do it can take time to determine what evidence is considered admissible or not. However, these exceptions to the exclusionary rule can change the way a case may turn out.

Call us at 936-294-1717 or email us at slms@shsu.edu to set up and appointment with our attorney.

Paige Pippin is from Denton, Texas and is a Criminal Justice major with a minor in Legal Studies. She is in the Honors College, the Criminal Justice Fraternity Lambda Alpha Epsilon, and Crime Victims Service Alliance. She loves being active and her favorite thing to do is play volleyball. She absolutely loves it here in Huntsville and after she graduates in the spring, she plans on going to Law School.  

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