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Illegal evidence and exceptions to the exclusionary rule

On Behalf of | May 20, 2021 | Criminal Defense

When police officers in Texas and around the country conduct searches without first obtaining a warrant, the evidence they discover is not usually admissible in court because rights protected by the U.S. Constitution were violated in order to obtain it. This is known as the exclusionary rule. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Good faith and inevitable discovery

Evidence discovered during warrantless searches may be used in court when the police officer involved acted in good faith. Examples of acting in good faith include conducting a search based on a defective warrant the police officer believed was valid at the time and basing a search on a law that was subsequently invalidated. This kind of evidence could also be admitted if prosecutors are able to convince a judge that the police would have discovered it anyway using other investigative techniques. This is known as inevitable discovery. When police officers did not act in good faith and criminal defense attorneys successfully argue that the evidence discovered during a warrantless search would not have been uncovered by other means, judges may still grant an exception to the exclusionary rule to impeach a witness who is committing perjury or otherwise misleading the jury.

Exigent circumstances

Judges are reluctant to exclude evidence discovered by police officers who were responding to exigent circumstances, and they usually allow evidence to be introduced when police officers responding to an emergency noticed it in plain sight. The courts have ruled that police officers may enter premises without first obtaining a search warrant to protect themselves or members of the public, if they are in hot pursuit of a suspect or when they have reason to believe that evidence is being tampered with or destroyed.

Challenging search warrants

Exceptions to the exclusionary rule allow evidence that would normally be considered illegal to be used in court, but there are also situations where judges may exclude evidence that would usually be admissible. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to have evidence discovered during a legal search excluded when police officers obtain search warrants by misleading the issuing judge or search areas not mentioned in the warrant.