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
It is well-settled that the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Incredibly, countries like India and China, who have populations at least 4x greater than ours, have a lower number of total prisoners. To put this statistic in perspective, the United States contains 5% of the world’s total population, yet it has 25% of the world’s prisoners.
The question is, what do these statistics have to do with drugs? Well, the answer is that nearly ¼ of our prison population is in jail or prison for drug violations. Incarceration has become a big business in this country, and with the privatization of prisons, lobbyists who represent the organizations the own these prisons are constantly lobbying law makers to draft stricter laws with harsher punishments – all in the name of increasing these private prisons’ profitability.
In the end, the War on Drugs has completely failed in its attempt to stop people from using drugs, but it has resulted in decimating minority communities where men over 18 are being locked away like animals at epidemic levels.
The War on Drugs’ Effect on Minorities
Unsurprisingly, many people believe drug use is more common in minority communities, and that is why minorities are locked up more often than their Caucasian counterparts for drug violations. This is an uninformed and unsubstantiated stereotype which could not be any further from the truth.
The truth is that while white people are often let off with a warning or slap on the wrist, blacks and Latinos are slammed with draconian sentences for mere possession. Additionally, laws are written in a manner which were purposely aimed at ensuring that drugs used by minorities are subject to harsher sentences than drugs used by white people. One well known example are the laws which created a wide sentencing disparity for possession of cocaine and possession of crack. Crack cocaine sentences are much harsher than powder cocaine sentences and, as many people know, crack is much more popular in minority communities than powder cocaine.
Why the United States is Far Behind the Rest of the Civilized World
Despite the United States’ reputation as a world leader, it has fallen behind in its approaches to drug addiction. The United States has held fast to its draconian drug laws while most other civilized countries have adopted a much more liberal approach with an emphasis on treatment as a medical issue, not a criminal issue. By way of example, Portugal has decriminalized all drugs. The result has been fewer fatalities from overdoses. Switzerland, through the use of methadone clinics and needle exchanges, has not only reduced the country’s crime rate and overdose-related deaths, but has also slashed their rates of HIV infection. Most people think of the Netherlands when they think of liberalized approaches to drug reform, and they were indeed one of the first countries to adopt the approach of treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal issue. But at the end of the day, while many countries around the world have adopted some permutation of the Netherlands’ approach, the United States inexplicably holds tight to its draconian, asinine, and failed drug policies. It is time for a drastic change which, unfortunately, does not appear to be anywhere in sight.
Defending Drug Crimes in Fairfax
We all know that our government has, and continues, to take the worst possible approach in dealing with the problem of drug use, and they have refused to relent or adjust in their failed approach. Drug laws require reform and this reform should not be impeded by lobbyists for private prisons.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a drug crime, or even with possession of marijuana, contact the Law Offices of Randall Sousa today for a free consultation with a Fairfax criminal defense attorney. Defending drug crimes requires that the attorney be fully up-to-date on the Commonwealth’s drug laws, the available treatment programs, and the developments in constitutional and Fourth Amendment issues such as search and seizure issues. Randall’s comprehensive knowledge of these issues is what makes him one of the very best and most aggressive drug defense lawyers in Northern Virginia. Call today 571-354-6164