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What is the “fruit of the poisonous tree?”

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2022 | criminal defense |

Not all evidence is admissible in court. In instances where police misconduct is suspected, several rules prevent the evidence from being used against a defendant facing criminal charges.

The exclusionary rule allows courts to exclude evidence at trial if it was obtained in violation of the Constitution. The exclusionary rule often comes into play when there is a violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and states that warrants can only be issued upon probable cause. The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination.

Another doctrine, the “fruit of the poisonous tree” is an extension of the exclusionary rule. The “fruit of the poisonous tree” legal doctrine means that evidence found as a result of an illegal search, seizure or arrest cannot be used against you.

For example, imagine that you are driving along the road and law enforcement stops you without a good reason to do so. The policeman searches the car and finds a large quantity of marijuana and drugs in the vehicle. You are charged with several crimes. The stop, lacking probable, will be viewed as illegal. The marijuana and drugs will be viewed as the “fruit” of the impermissible search and will also be excluded.

Upon request by a your criminal defense attorney, the search and the marijuana and drugs will be thrown out, leading to the charges being dropped.

The idea is that the police cannot benefit from doing the wrong thing.

The “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine applies to interrogation as well as physical evidence. For example, if there is an illegal interrogation that leads to physical evidence, the exclusionary rule forbids information from the interrogation being used against you while the “fruit of the poisonous tree” rule forbids the use of the physical evidence.

However, there are exceptions to the “fruit of the poisonous tree” rule which means that some evidence is admissible even if the police came by it illegally.

One of the exceptions is “inevitable discovery.” If the evidence would have been discovered anyway, then the evidence is admissible.

Another exception is “independent source.” If the evidence would have been found through another source, then it can be admissible.

If the police officer believed in good faith the search was legal, then the evidence can be admitted.

Attenuated taint is another exception. If there is an interruption between the illegal search and the discovery of the evidence, then the evidence might be admissible. For example, if the police stops a person without probable cause and discovers an outstanding warrant for the person. The officer arrests and searches the person, finding evidence of several crimes. The evidence could be admissible.

An Ocean City criminal defense attorney can provide more details.

Maronick Law, LLC is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your Glen Burnie, Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Ocean City, Towson, White Marsh criminal defense lawyer needs. If you are facing criminal charges or have been arrested, an Ocean City or Baltimore criminal defense attorney can help.

If you have access to Zoom, we can meet with you remotely. The consultation is free. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.881.4022 or via the website.




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