Europe As Transit Area For Illicit Drugs See International Drug Supply


EXCLUSIONARY RULE In legal proceedings, the exclusionary rule prohibits the use of any evidence obtained in contravention of the U.S. Constitution. The rule is frequently invoked when government authorities seize evidence in violation of the Fourth Amendment s prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures. Evidence may be illegally obtained when government officials do not have a warrant to search an individual s premises or the warrant is defective. Law enforcement officers may also lack sufficient probable cause to arrest a person. In addition, the courts may invoke the exclusionary rule when they find a violation of an individual s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or a violation of a defendant s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Courts often refer to evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendment as ''tainted'' or ''the fruit of a poisonous tree.''

The U.S. Supreme Court established the exclusionary rule in the early 1900s. It applies to all federal courts through the Fourth Amendment and to all state courts through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Before the rule was created, any evidence was admissible in a criminal trial if the judge found it relevant. It made no difference how the police had obtained it. In Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652 (1914), the Supreme Court barred the use of evidence secured through a warrantless search of a defendant's house by federal agents. However, for almost 50 years the exclusionary rule only applied to federal courts.

The Supreme Court broadened the rule's coverage inMapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961). It held that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to exclude evidence obtained from an unconstitutional search or seizure. The Court has often cited an individual's right to privacy and the deterrence of unreasonable police conduct as the primary reasons for excluding evidence obtained from an unreasonable search and seizure.

A criminal defendant who claims an unreasonable search and seizure is usually allowed to make the claims in a suppression hearing that is conducted before the trial. At this hearing the judge must determine what evidence will be suppressed, or excluded from trial.

A number of exceptions to the exclusionary rule have emerged to reduce the effects of the doctrine, such as a police officer's ''good-faith'' belief that an otherwise defective warrant is valid, evidence obtained in ''hot pursuit,'' or evidence seized in ''plain view'' of the law enforcement officer's sight and reach. There are other exceptions to the exclusionary rule. Evidence seized by private parties is not excluded from trial if the search was not at the direction of law enforcement officers. If a criminal defendant testifies in his or her own defense, illegally seized evidence may be used to discredit the defendant's testimony. Illegally seized evidence can also be used in grand jury proceedings and civil proceedings. However, a grand jury cannot use illegally seized evidence if it was obtained in violation of federal wiretapping statutes.

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