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How does the exclusionary rule apply to your rights?

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were smart men. They realized that individuals needed as much protection from the government as possible without putting other people in jeopardy or infringing on other people's rights. This includes the Fourth Amendment, which protects you from unlawful searches and seizures.

The problem was that until the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted this Constitutional amendment, it did no one any real good. Then, in decisions made in two landmark cases, the country's highest court gave it meaning in 1914 and then told the states that decision applied to them as well in 1961.

So what does this mean for you?

The "exclusionary rule" resulted from these decisions. The court felt that when a government authority violates your Fourth Amendment rights by not conducting a legal search and seizure, the evidence derived from that search should not enter into evidence against you in court. Over the years, this rule serves as a deterrent and punishment to police officers who would violate your rights.

If any of the evidence excluded from admission in court led to other evidence, the court may not allow its admission either. This "fruit of the poisonous tree" rule could possibly result in the dismissal of charges due to a lack of evidence. If prosecutors secure a conviction and if you appeal it based on the exclusionary rule and/or the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, prosecutors may still retry the case. However, achieving a conviction would be that much harder without the evidence suppressed (excluded) by the court.

This rule does not necessarily only apply to searches and seizures however. For example, if you confessed to a crime, but the manner in which police obtained the confession was illegal, it would not be admissible in court. Any evidence police discovered as a result of this illegal confession would also not enter into evidence.

Using the exclusionary rule and fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine

Even though you have the right to challenge any search and seizure based on a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, it could present an uphill battle. You will need to present the appropriate evidence to the court. Only if the court rules in your favor will the evidence not end up used in court against you. With your freedom and other aspects of your life on the line, this sort of endeavor may be best left to an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney.

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