Introduction to the Exclusionary Rule

In one of our recent blog posts, we discussed a complex legal idea: Fruit of the poisonous tree. Under this doctrine, if law enforcement conducts an illegal search or seizure, any evidence that is indirectly obtained from that search or seizure is excluded from court. This is a crucial legal doctrine that criminal defense attorneys try to use to protect defendants from a variety of criminal charges, from fraud to drug crimes to bank robbery. However, the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine can be difficult to comprehend without knowing some of the background behind the rule. Perhaps most important to understand is the exclusionary rule.

The Fourth Amendment

Like most of criminal defense work, the exclusionary rule starts with the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits law enforcement from conducting “unreasonable” searches or seizures. While what constitutes an “unreasonable” search or seizure – or even what is a “search,” or what is a “seizure” – is incredibly complex, we do not have to delve into any of these difficulties to understand the exclusionary rule. Instead, all you need to know is that the exclusionary rule applies whenever law enforcement commits a search or seizure that is deemed to be “unreasonable.”

A Right Without a Remedy

Once police or other law enforcement commits an unreasonable search or seizure, they have violated the civil rights that are guaranteed to everyone under the Fourth Amendment.

So what?

The reality of the Fourth Amendment is that it only states that the government cannot conduct unreasonable searches or seizures. Like many of the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Fourth Amendment does not say what happens if it is ever violated. As a result, it is merely a right without a remedy, and if there is no remedy, what happens if that right is ever violated?

The Exclusionary Rule

exclusionary-rule-comicThis is where the exclusionary rule comes into play.

Noticing that the Fourth Amendment had no teeth to protect citizens against unreasonable searches or seizures from law enforcement, judges created a remedy for Fourth Amendment violations: Whenever law enforcement brought forward evidence that they obtained after conducting an unreasonable search or seizure, judges would exclude it from being heard in court. This is the exclusionary rule.

The exclusionary rule protects citizens from unreasonable searches or seizures by preventing any evidence obtained through one from being used against them in court. Therefore, if you are being investigated for a crime, and law enforcement violates your civil rights guaranteed to you under the Fourth Amendment, anything that they find will be subject to the exclusionary rule, and can be prevented from being presented by the prosecutor in court.

The Federal Criminal Law Center Uses the Exclusionary Rule to Protect You

If you have been charged with a federal crime, the exclusionary rule can be your best bet for preventing crucial evidence from entering the courtroom and being used to convict you. The attorneys at the Federal Criminal Law Center have established a reputation for using the exclusionary rule to protect their clients against evidence illegally obtained by law enforcement. Contact the Federal Criminal Law Center online to start planning your defense.