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Suppression of Evidence Laws

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What Happens to Evidence Obtained by an Illegal Search?

Evidence that is obtained through an illegal search cannot be used against the person who was searched. This is known as the "exclusionary rule." It is almost always necessary to make a motion to suppress the evidence in order to keep it from being admitted at trial. 

If I Get the Evidence Suppressed, Does That Mean the Cases Is Over?

No. The police may have other evidence. If the evidence that is suppressed is not crucial, it is still possible for the police and prosecutor to go forward with the case.

If I Get the Evidence Suppressed, Does That Mean No One Will Know about It?

Not necessarily. While the evidence cannot be used as direct evidence at trial, there are possible situations where the evidence can still be used. These situations include:

  • A judge may be able to consider the evidence when determining a sentence for the individual
  • The evidence may be admissible in civil and deportation cases
  • In some situations, the evidence may be used to impeach or discredit a testifying witness

Can I Suppress Any Other Evidence?

Yes, there are other types of evidence that are suppressible. The exclusionary rule applies to any evidence that is discovered based upon the results of an illegal search. This evidence is referred to as "the fruit of the poisonous tree," and cannot be used against at trial.

For example, if an officer illegally searches a car and finds a note with an address on it where you have counterfeit money stored, the money may not be admissible as evidence at trial. The illegal search of the car and the finding of the note are the "poisonous tree," while the counterfeit money is the "fruit."

There are, however, some important nuances to this rule.

When Can The "Fruits" of an Illegal Search Be Used?

There are three exceptions to the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. First, evidence that has become sufficiently attenuated from the illegal search is admissible. In other words, if the connection between the evidence in question and the illegal search is sufficiently weak, the evidence is admissible. Second, if the police would have inevitably discovered the evidence, then it is admissible. Third, if the evidence is discovered through an independent, untainted source, it is admissible.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Knowing what evidence can be suppressed and how to suppress it are incredibly complicated issues. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you with the process and advise you of your rights and defenses. Anytime you are accused of committing a crime, you should consult a local lawyer immediately.

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-24-2015 09:15 PM PST

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