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Looking at limitations on the exclusionary rule

Last time, we mentioned that the exclusionary rule may be an available remedy in cases where a criminal defendant has been subjected to an illegal search or seizure. The exclusionary rule is not something that a court applies automatically, but rather some that a criminal defendant has to request. This is done by filing a motion to suppress evidence.

There are certain limitations to the exclusionary rule. One of these is the good faith exception, which holds that illegally obtained evidence may not be excluded when an officer reasonably relies on a search warrant that ends up being invalid. The validity of a search warrant depends on several factors, but a warrant that is defective in some way doesn’t necessarily vitiate evidence discovered pursuant to the warrant, provided an officer executed the warrant correctly. It would be different, though, if an officer executed an invalid warrant incorrectly, say, by exceeding the limitations of the warrant. 

Two other limitations on the exclusionary rule which are somewhat related are the independent source doctrine and the inevitable discovery doctrine. Under the independent source doctrine, evidence obtained during an unlawful search or seizure may be admissible if the evidence is obtained later on by means of a valid search or seizure. Under the inevitable discovery doctrine, evidence obtained during an illegal search or seizure may be admissible if it would have been discovered by some other means anyway.

Illegal obtained evidence may also be admissible in cases where the connection between the unlawful search and the evidence is determined to be too remote. These are not the only limitations on the exclusionary rule, but are relatively common ones. It is important, of course, for a defendant who hopes to file a motion for suppression of evidence to work with an experienced attorney who is familiar with such motion practice. Working with a knowledgeable and skilled attorney can help to ensure a defendant has the best shot at getting illegally obtained evidence suppressed from trial. 

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