What Is The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree Doctrine?
To prove a defendant’s guilt in a criminal case, the prosecution must present evidence to prove every aspect of the charge present. Without evidence, the prosecution cannot prove a defendant’s guilt. Also, if the prosecution tries to present evidence that was obtained illegally, or evidence that was obtained or derived from evidence that was illegally obtained, that evidence may be considered invalid (i.e., inappropriate to present to a jury), thus making it more difficult to prove the defendant’s guilt.
In this article, we discuss a legal doctrine known as “The Fruit of the Poisonous tree,” which is a doctrine that makes evidence inadmissible in court if it was obtained or derived from a piece of evidence that was unlawfully obtained.
The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
This rule is an extension of the “exclusionary rule”, which is a rule that prevents the prosecution from using evidence obtained in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Under the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine, evidence is inadmissible in court if it was obtained or derived from illegally obtained evidence. In other words, according to the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree rule, not only must evidence obtained illegally be excluded from being presented in court, but any evidence obtained or derived from the exploitation of illegally obtained evidence is likewise excluded as well.
Exceptions to the Rule
The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree rule is subject to some exceptions, meaning that there are times when evidence will be considered valid or admissible in court even if it was obtained or derived from illegally obtained evidence. The following are some of the exceptions to the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine;
- Independent source: If the prosecution can show that the evidence was obtained from a source independent of the original illegality, the evidence will likely be considered admissible.
- Discovery was inevitable: The evidence will be considered valid if the prosecution can prove that law enforcement officers would still have discovered the evidence whether or not they violated the U.S. Constitution.
- There was attenuation between the illegal act and the finding of the evidence: If the connection between the unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence has been interrupted by an intervening circumstance or is remote, the evidence will be considered admissible. For example, suppose a defendant is set free after an illegal arrest, but he or she returns to the police station to confess. In such a case, that voluntary act of returning to the police station removes any taint from the confessions.
- Evidence obtained in good faith: If the primary evidence that was obtained illegally was considered admissible because law enforcement officers had reasonable, good faith belief they were acting according to the law, then the “fruits” of the primary evidence will be considered admissible.
The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine is quite complex. Therefore, if you are facing criminal charges, it is best that you consult a qualified criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you determine if the evidence the prosecution has against you is admissible or inadmissible in court.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Attorney
If you’re facing criminal charges in Florida, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney at Joyce A. Julian, P.A. We can guide you and help you fight your charges.