Anyone who watches crime shows has probably heard television detectives discussing evidence, warrants and probable cause. While the sensational aspects of police dramas may overshadow these legal concepts, it is important for our readers in Michigan to know that rules do apply to law enforcement officials when they perform searches of suspects’ homes, vehicles and persons. One of those rules is the exclusionary rule, and it has its basis in a Supreme Court decision from more than a century ago.
In the case of Weeks v. United States, the Supreme Court determined that the defendant could have illegally obtained evidence thrown out before trial. In general, a law enforcement official must have a warrant or probable cause in order to legally perform a search and seize alleged contraband. In the case of Weeks, the government agent had no constitutional justification for the seizure of the disputed evidence.
A subsequent rule followed the exclusionary rule, which is often called the “fruits of the poisonous tree” doctrine. Under this doctrine, any evidence that is collected from an illegal search or information that is obtained illegally cannot be used against a criminal defendant. In essence, these and other rules help protect defendants’ rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
It is important that individuals who are facing serious criminal charges work with legal professionals who are capable of recognizing and confronting situations in which evidence may have been illegally obtained. A strong criminal defensive strategy may help a person avoid the serious consequences that can apply when criminal convictions are secured against them.