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What is the exclusionary rule?

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2019 | Firm News

When searching for incriminating evidence against you, authorities in Pennsylvania must follow rules set down in the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. Specifically, authorities must have probable cause or a warrant before conducting a search. According to FindLaw, the exclusionary rule says that if law enforcement collects evidence against you during an illegal search, the prosecutor cannot introduce the evidence at trial.

If the prosecutor attempts to enter evidence against you that should be inadmissible under the exclusionary rule, you can file a motion to suppress before the trial begins. If successful, the judge will not allow the prosecutor to introduce the evidence. Nevertheless, even if the court allows the evidence, you may have legal recourse available to you if convicted. If the jury convicts you on the basis of evidence that should not have been admissible, you can appeal the decision on the grounds that the court’s decision to admit the evidence was improper.

Though the Fourth Amendment dates back over 200 years, the exclusionary rule is actually much more recent. The United States Supreme Court created it in 1914 when it overturned the conviction of a man convicted on the basis of evidence that a federal agent had seized without first obtaining a warrant. At first, however, the exclusionary rule only applied to federal crimes. However, that changed in 1961 when another Supreme Court decision established that the exclusionary rule is also applicable at the state level.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.