Paper on Exclusionary Rule and the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine

“Exclusionary Rule and the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine


In the contemporary society, search and seizure are essential exercises in the continuous hunt of criminals. Searches and seizures are used to produce proof for the trial of suspected criminals. Normally, law enforcing officers have the authority to search and seize, nevertheless, individuals are safeguarded against Arbitrary, perverse police incursions. Freedom from unlimited search warrants was acute to American colonists. Under England’s statute, many searches were unconstrained in latitude and carried out without validation. For instance, customs bureaucrats could get into homes of colonists freely to search for desecrations of imposts and trade regulations. The searches in the colonies characterized governmental subjugation. As a way of controlling police incursions on individual privacy, the United States established measures aimed at guarding against arbitrary police intrusions. For instance, the US ratified the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment in 7191. It stated, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon Probable Cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The current paper will describe the exclusionary rule, and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, including their differences as well as providing insights on whether the exclusionary rule and/or “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine apply to the evidence recovered in a Case of “Who did it?’.

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution safeguards individuals from tenacious searches and seizures. Primarily, this implies that law enforcing officers or other agents are not allowed to search your property or take your belongings merely because they feel like doing it or they do not like you. Law enforcing officers must have a good reason before they can proceed with their mission to search individual’s homes, office and seize things, for instance, in smuggled goods or evidence of a crime. When the Fourth Amendment is desecrated, any evidence that is drawn to the illegitimate search or seizure is considered as the fruit of the poisonous tree and cannot be used in any form of trial.

Exclusionary Rule

Exclusionary rule is a tool used to implement the Fourth Amendment’s fortifications. Generally, under the exclusionary rule, except that one of the warrant exemptions applies, the police and other law enforcing agents require a search warrant before they can search an individual’s home, office, luggage, or even pockets. Therefore, a search carried out without a warrant, or in the desecration of a warrant, is considered an arbitrary search (Kinports, 2012). In addition, under the exclusionary rule, any evidence that is acquired in defilement of the Fourth Amendment – that is, through an unlawful or unreasonable search, seizure or even an arrest cannot be applied as evidence against an individual to convict him or her for a crime. The evidence is “excluded” hence the name exclusion or “repressed.”

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

The “fruit of the poisonous tree” canon is almost similar to the exclusionary rule. In reality, it incorporates the protection provided by the exclusionary rule a step further. Under the fruit of the poisonous tree, the state cannot admit any form of evidence at trial against an individual if it was exposed through other evidence that was attained by violating the Fourth Amendment (Thaman, 2010). The “poisonous tree” involves the evidence first obtained or discovered through the initial desecration of the Fourth Amendment, that is, though unlawful search, seizure, or arrest. The “fruit” involves any form of evidence that is exposed later because of information or evidence attained through that illegal search, seizure or arrest.

Generally, there is no difference between the exclusionary rule and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine since they are all intended to restrain or prevent any form transgression by police and other government law enforcing agents. Both the two rules work on the supposition that the law enforcing agencies will work to their best to ensure that they do not intrude upon the Fourth Amendment. This applies if the police are aware that they cannot benefit from any evidence produced or revealed as result of an illegal search or seizure.

In the Case of “Who did it? I tend to think that the evidence retrieved is against both the exclusionary rule and fruit of the poisonous tree doctrines that were not applied. There are some exceptions that are allowed to these doctrines. In this case, the inevitable discovery exception would have applied. This is where evidence can still be allowed for prosecution in the court of law even if it was illegitimately obtained, but only if the same evidence would have certainly been discovered nevertheless. For instance, when Mary Ellis called 911 regarding the issue and the officer came in and found out blood spilled over her hands and clothes. By the fact that she invited the police and the evidence was certain, that would be used in a court of law. In this case, the police would go ahead and search the place since the evidence would still be discovered in the absence of an illegal search because it was certain in the full glance of the law enforcing officers.

In this case, after the officers arrive at the scene, Mrs. Ellis is disturbed and is taken to the hospital. We are not told of any form of search warrant that the officers produced but they go ahead and search Clyde Stevens room. Furthermore, it is clear that in William’s bedroom, the technicians develop a blood fingerprint nearby to a light switch, using an amino acid stain. They go ahead locate the print using the absorptive properties of blood and a portable argon laser. The print is from the right index finger of William Ellis, and DNA analysis matches the blood to Clyde Stevens. Irrespective of all these processes, the evidence is from a poisonous tree where it was obtained through an initial violation of the Fourth Amendment, that is, though unlawful search.

The officers should have followed laid down procedures in to ensure the admissibility of all evidence in the case of “who did it.” The initial step would have been to get a search warrant that is a judicially accepted document that permits law enforcement officials to search a particular place (Bloom, 2003). To get the warrant, the law enforcing officers should have provided a detailed account of information backing up the possible cause to believe that proof of a crime would be gathered at Mrs. Ellis home. Moreover, the officers should have specified particular places to be searched as well as items to be sought.

The officers then would only search the indicated places. For example, if the officers wanted to search in Elli’s and Steven’s bedrooms, the officers should not have touched any other places before being approved by judges. The officers illegally went ahead to remove blood from Stevens body, which is a search that can only be approved by a judge or a magistrate. A police or any law enforcing officer is allowed to conduct a warrantless search if the subject agrees, which was not the case with Mrs. Ellis since she was taken to hospital for observation, as she was quite disturbed. Therefore, the evidence obtained from this case was as fruit of the poisonous tree and would not be admitted in a court of law.




Bloom, R. M. (2003). Searches, seizures, and warrants: A reference guide to the United States constitution (Vol. 3). ABC-CLIO.

Kinports, K. (2012). Culpability, Deterrence, and the Exclusionary Rule. Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J., 21, 821.

Thaman, S. C. (2010). ‘Fruits of the Poisonous Tree ‘in Comparative Law. Southwestern Journal of International Law, (2010), v. 16, 333-384.