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Saving Illegally Obtained Evidence

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Quarterly Dated: (February-April 1992) Pages: 15-18,39
R C Phillips
Date Published
5 pages
Three exceptions to the exclusionary rule are "attenuation of the taint," "independent source," and "inevitable discovery."
The exclusionary rule mandates that evidence seized as a product of unlawful police activity, absent some exception, is not admissible in court. Evidence subject to suppression as a result of fourth (search and seizure), fifth (self-incrimination), or sixth (right to assistance of counsel) amendment violations include not only what was seized or discovered in the course of the unlawful conduct, but anything that was subsequently obtained as a product of the illegal action. One exception to the exclusionary rule involves "attenuation of the taint." If there are intervening factors, such as a significant amount of time or actions by the defendant or third parties, a court must analyze those factors to determine whether the "taint" (illegal police activity) has become so far "attenuated" from the eventual discovery of evidence subject to being suppressed that it serves no legitimate purpose to suppress it. Another exception to the exclusionary rule involves an "independent source" for the evidence illegally obtained. This doctrine allows the admission of evidence that may have been obtained illegally by police if that same evidence was also obtained legally by another means. A third exception to the exclusionary rule concerns "inevitable discovery." This doctrine provides that evidence found due to a constitutional violation is admissible if it would have been inevitably discovered lawfully. This is a valid exception only if the inevitable discovery would have occurred through means other than the proper securing of a search warrant. 61 footnotes


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