Fruit of the Poisonous Tree: What Does It Mean and Why Is It Important?

Do you watch a lot of crime dramas on TV? If so, you’ve likely heard the phrase “fruit of the poisonous tree” uttered from time to time. However, do you know what it means? This phrase refers to a legal doctrine originating in 1920 with the decision in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States. Justice Frankfurter first employed the expression in the 1939 case, Nardone v. United States. Let’s explore how this phrase connects to mounting a criminal defense case.

Explaining the Doctrine

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree is a doctrine that extends the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule prevents the use of improperly obtained evidence, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, against citizens. This regulation includes any piece of evidence procured through illegal search and seizure, infringements on the defendant’s right to an attorney, and self-incriminating statements. The judge will deem any evidence acquired illegally inadmissible in court

Exceptions to the Exclusionary Clause Law

exclusionary clause lawThere are a few exceptions to the doctrine that prevents the evidence from exclusion in court, such as:

  • The evidence emanates from a source not related to the illegal activity in question.
  • The discovery of the evidence was inevitable. In other words, police officers would have found the evidence without using an unlawful search to do so.
  • There is attenuation present between the activity that is illegal and the discovery of the evidence. If the illicit action weakens the connection between the illegal police action and the evidence, then it may be permissible.

The Good-Faith Exception

There is a good-faith exception when it comes to the exclusionary rule. If officers illegally obtain the primary evidence in a case involving the “fruit of the poisonous tree,” but it was a good-faith exception, the fruit of that evidence can also be admissible in court.

The good-faith exception states that if officers who performed a search and seizure had good faith that they were following the law, and a search warrant issued later turned out to be defective, the evidence obtained in the illegal search is admissible in court. While this might not seem fair to most defendants, it can be challenging to fight the evidence if the officers were acting in good faith and the search warrant turns out to be invalid at a later date.

Facing Criminal Charges in Miami? Speak with an Attorney Today

If you are facing any type of criminal charges in Miami, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A Miami criminal defense lawyer from Piotrowski Law will examine the charges filed against you, collect evidence, and build a strong defense against any allegations. Contact our office at 305-930-6652 to schedule a consultation with our team of highly skilled and experienced employees. We will fight with unflagging determination to have the charges filed against you dropped or reduced so that you can move forward with your life.