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What is the fruit of the poisonous tree?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

When a case goes to court, the authorities have to provide evidence to try to get a conviction. But do not assume that any evidence they have collected can be used. The way in which the evidence was gathered is very important, and the court does have the ability to remove some of it from the case.

One example of how this can happen is if the authorities have violated a legal doctrine known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” What is this and how does it work?

Illegal activity prior to gathering that evidence

The fruit of the poisonous tree basically asserts that a proper chain of events must be followed in order for evidence to be legally permissible. If it has been gathered illegally, or even after a single illegal act, then the evidence itself may not stand. The entire “tree” of evidence has been poisoned.

One example of this is if the authorities do not have a valid reason to enter someone’s home and so they cannot get a search warrant. However, believing there is evidence in the home, they force their way in against the homeowner’s wishes. Even if they do find evidence that would get a conviction in court, they may not be allowed to present that evidence because they violated the person’s Fourth Amendment rights when they gathered it. Due to the fruit of the poisonous tree, this initial illegal act means that all evidence stemming from it is also tainted.

Exploring your options

As you can see, it’s very important to know exactly what defense options you have when facing legal charges.