How Your Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Use the Exclusionary Rule to Suppress Evidence
In previous articles, I discussed Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In a nutshell, the Fourth Amendment requires police to have a warrant to conduct a search unless an exception exists, but generally, a warrantless search requires probable cause or that the search be incident to a lawful arrest. When police violate these guidelines, the exclusionary rule allows a criminal defense attorney to suppress any evidence which is the fruit of the illegal search.
What is the Exclusionary Rule?
In Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), an exclusionary rule case which came before the Supreme Court, the Court held that allowing law enforcement to use unlawfully obtained evidence would open the floodgates to the violation of citizens’ everyday rights. Thus, suppressing illegally obtained evidence under the exclusionary rule would be the only way that our courts can ensure that law enforcement will not violate the rights of citizens in order to obtain incriminating evidence.
In order for the exclusionary rule to apply, there must be (1) suppression of evidence which has been illegally seized and (2) evidence derived from illegally seized evidence (known as the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine – which I explain in further detail below). Notably, an illegal search can lead to the suppression of all evidence discovered as a result of that illegal search – even if some of the evidence was seized lawfully.
What is the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine?
The fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine is an extension of the exclusionary rule. Basically, it prevents the prosecution from admitting certain evidence into a criminal case after it has been tainted by a primary illegality. For example, if the police illegally search your home and find a key to a safety deposit box, then even if they obtain a warrant to search the safety deposit box, whatever they find inside of that box will likely be excluded under the exclusionary rule. The reason why the exclusionary rule would apply is because law enforcement’s knowledge of the box – and their subsequent request for a warrant – were all obtained through an original search which was unlawful. There are a number of exceptions to the exclusionary rule and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, but in order to know whether these exceptions might apply, you will want to speak with a Fairfax criminal defense attorney.
If you believe that you were convicted of a crime as a result of an illegal search, you would be wise to contact a Virginia appeals attorney to discuss whether you might be able to have the conviction reversed.
An Example of How Your Fairfax Criminal Lawyer Can Suppress Evidence
Ricky is pulled over by the Fairfax Police while driving away from an area known for its heavy narcotics trafficking and drug dealing. The officers did not see Ricky buying any drugs, but they are suspicious of the location he was headed away from and believe that many of the cars driving away from that area have purchased drugs.
The officers believe Ricky is acting nervous and ask him to step out of the vehicle. As soon as he steps out, police handcuff him. The officers then pat Ricky down and notice a small object in his right pants pocket. Inside his pocket is a small bag containing cocaine. Ricky is arrested and the officers search his car and come upon an unlicensed firearm. Ricky is charged with two felonies – one for the drugs and the other for the gun. Ricky hires a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney to file a motion to suppress the evidence under the exclusionary rule.
At his arraignment, Ricky’s lawyer obtains a copy of the police reports and then requests further evidence from the prosecutor. Knowing that the police car has video and audio, Ricky’s attorney can use that evidence to show the judge what happened during the motion to suppress hearing. At the preliminary hearing, Ricky’s lawyer argues the motion to suppress and effectively cross-examines the arresting officers. During his examination of the officers, Ricky’s Fairfax criminal defense attorney shows that the police’s suspicion was not supported by probable cause and they needed more evidence of guilt before handcuffing Ricky. The video and testimony at Ricky’s hearing demonstrated that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights. As a result, the judge finds that the exclusionary rule bars the evidence obtained by the officers. The motion judge grants the motion to suppress and the charges against Ricky are dismissed.
Other Articles on Your Constitutional Rights
- Your Right to Remain Silent
- Your Right to an Attorney
- What is Considered a “Search”?
- Vehicle Searches
- Stop and Frisk Searches
- Never Consent to Searches
- Know Your Rights
Contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you or a loved one have been charged or arrested for a crime on the basis of an unlawful search, you need a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer who can assert your rights by filing a motion to suppress the evidence against you under the exclusionary rule. Contact the Law Offices of Randall Sousa now for a Free Consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Fairfax VA. 571-354-6164
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By: Randall Sousa