The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individuals rights against unlawful search and seizure. Any evidence found during an illegal search is know as the Fruits of the Poisonous Tree.
What is a standard legal search?
In order for a police officer to acquire a search warrant, they must present to a judge “probable cause“. Probable cause for a search warrant is the standard of proof that police must meet to show that evidence of a crime will be found in a location and the area in which they would like to search. If law enforcement can meet this standard or proof, they will take an Oath/affirmation that everything they are saying is true.
What is an illegal search?
As stated above, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from illegal search and seizures. There are a few ways that a police officer can violate the Fourth Amendment and conduct an illegal search. The law enforcement officer may commit an illegal search if they;
- Do not get a search warrant prior to the search.
- Do not get consent prior to the search where a warrant is not presented.
- Look in places that are not relevant to what is listed in the search warrant.*
*An example of this would be a situation where the warrant shows a big item, such as a shotgun, and police search the medicine cabinet and find illegal substances.
There are a few exceptions a police officer may use to search a privately owned area without a warrant. If any of these exceptions are made, then it is a legal search.
- Consent was given for the search. This is why it is crucial to not give consent for a search if the police do not have a search warrant.
- If there is an exigent circumstance, such as safety to human life.
- If you are arrested, an Inventory Search may be conducted. This can occur when entering a prison or having your vehicle impounded.
- The Plain View Doctrine states that evidence can be collected if it is left in plain view of an officer who is in a place they can legally be. An example of this is drug paraphernalia sitting on the front seat of a car in a public parking lot.
The Fruits of the Poisonous Tree
This metaphor is used when describing evidence that has been found during an illegal search. To use this metaphor correctly, think the “poisonous tree” is the illegal search and the “fruits” are the evidence from that search. Even if the evidence is legitimately connected to a crime it is not admissible in court if the search were it was found is deemed an illegal search.
What to do if you think evidence against you was found illegally.
If you think that evidence found in a criminal complaint against you was found illegally, contact an experienced defense attorney right away. If you are in Chester County, Delaware County, or Montgomery County, contact the Law Office of Vincent J. Caputo for a free consolation. Your future? Our Priority!