If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s very important to understand the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. This legal doctrine may give you a way to fight those charges, even if it seems like the evidence that has been presented against you is conclusive.
In general, this doctrine just means that evidence must be obtained lawfully. When it is not, it cannot be used in court. This can mean that one illegal action creates a poisonous tree, and then the fruit of that tree – or the evidence – then has to be barred from court.
How could this happen?
A good example of this is if the police carry out an illegal search. For example, maybe an officer arrives at your house and wants to search for illegal drugs they believe are on the premises.
But the officer was either unable to get a warrant, or they simply didn’t take the time to do so. They ask you for your consent to come into the house and look for any evidence. Naturally, you don’t give them this consent because they don’t have a warrant, and you see no reason for the search.
If they carry out the search anyway, that could violate your rights. There are some rare exceptions to the need for a warrant before conducting a search, such as if there’s an emergency, but the police typically either have to have consent or a warrant. If they don’t have either, even if they then find illegal drugs in your home, you may be able to show that that evidence shouldn’t be used in court because the police should never have been allowed to enter your residence to begin with.
You can see just how complex criminal cases become and why it’s so important to understand all of your legal options.