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How does the “exclusionary rule” work?

The prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures remains a fundamental constitutional right that protects citizens from government and law enforcement abuse. The exclusionary rule derives from this right, and it bars the use of illegally obtained evidence from admissibility in a trial. The rule applies to both federal and Florida state court criminal trials.

Understanding the exclusionary rule

The exclusionary rule safeguards citizens in many ways and binds investigators, prosecutors, and judges to fairness and equity. One way the rule does so is by requiring probable cause for an arrest and search. If the police pull someone’s vehicle over for no reason other than the officer’s personal bias, there is doubtful probable cause present for an arrest. Any evidence seized when the officer had no probable cause might face challenges under the exclusionary rule, and if the challenge is successful, then the evidence cannot be introduced at the trial.

The police could procure a warrant to search someone’s home or business, which, in turn, requires law enforcement to make a case for the search to a judge. Without the requirement for a warrant, the police could search anyone’s home at any time without reason.

Without the exclusionary rule, official misconduct could become rampant. The falsification of evidence and other outrageous behaviors might become the norm, undermining citizen’s rights. Unfortunately, the exclusionary rule’s existence does not eliminate the problems it intends to address.

Dealing with improperly obtained evidence

A police officer could make false statements to claim probable cause. Evidence may end up planted on suspects in some cases. A criminal defense attorney must then challenge how law enforcement procured the evidence as part of a strategy to suppress it.

Of course, a criminal defense attorney must provide a compelling and factually accurate argument while the evidence is illegal. If evidence ends up suppressed or thrown out, then it doesn’t factor into a criminal trial. Without planted or illegally obtained evidence introduced during criminal proceedings, a case may fall apart since proving guilt may be difficult, if not impossible.