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Police need to follow proper search procedures, or evidence can be excluded, P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at the recent charges against Philadelphia rapper Bernie Sigel, who was arrested during a traffic stop after police found prescription pills, marijuana, a gun and cash inside his vehicle. This story led us into a discussion of the importance of examining whether police followed proper police procedure in criminal defense cases involving illegal drugs.

As we noted last time, police are bound by a number of legal and procedural requirements when conducting stops, searches and seizures, and their failure to do so can strengthen a defendant's case. One way this can happen is by means of the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule has its roots in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, though many states also have their own exclusionary remedies for illegally obtained evidence. Basically, this rule prevents prosecutors from using illegally obtained evidence against a criminal defendant in trial.

Another rule, called the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine, applies as an extension of the exclusionary rule. Under this rule, incriminatory evidence stemming from illegal police action is excluded from trial. This rule is meant to deter police from using illegal means of obtaining evidence, such as performing illegal vehicle searches.

There are some exceptions to these rules, though. These include the doctrines of attenuation of taint, independent source, "good faith," and inevitable discover. Knowing how to navigate the legal and factual questions surrounding the exclusionary rule is not easy, and it is critical to have an experienced attorney.

In our next post, we'll take a look at some of these exceptions.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Rapper Beanie Sigel arrested for drug, gun possession: report," Piya Sinha-Roy, August 29, 2012.

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