U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Inevitable Discovery Exception to the Exclusionary Rule

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 66 Issue: 9 Dated: (September 1997) Pages: 26-32
E M Hendrie
Date Published
7 pages
This article presents an overview of the exclusionary rule and discusses in detail the inevitable discovery exception to that rule.
In 1914, the US Supreme Court ruled that evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment guarantee of protection from unreasonable searches and seizures could not be used by the government against a defendant at trial. A later Court ruling prohibited introducing not only items directly seized during an illegal government search but also any evidence indirectly derived from that search. Although the exclusionary rule most often is applied to violations of the Fourth Amendment, it has been applied to other constitutional violations as well. The Supreme Court consistently has recognized that inflexible application of the exclusionary rule would generate disrespect for the law and impede the administration of justice. Therefore, courts have carved out a number of exceptions and limitations to the rule. For instance, courts generally will not suppress evidence that has been seized illegally if the government can establish that the evidence inevitably would have been discovered lawfully. The article discusses active pursuit of an independent investigation in order to successfully assert the inevitable discovery exception, inevitable discovery by private parties, and inevitable discovery of primary evidence. Notes