What Is It Called When Evidence Is Thrown Out of Court?
When evidence is thrown out of court, it is referred to as “exclusionary rule.” The exclusionary rule is a legal principle that prohibits the use of evidence in a criminal trial if it was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. This rule is based on the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The exclusionary rule serves as a safeguard to ensure that law enforcement officials conduct searches and seizures in a lawful manner, respecting the rights of individuals. If evidence is obtained illegally or in violation of someone’s constitutional rights, it cannot be used against them in court. This rule aims to deter police misconduct and preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system.
There are various situations where evidence may be thrown out of court. Some common reasons include:
1. Unlawful search and seizure: If law enforcement officials conduct a search without a valid search warrant or without sufficient justification, any evidence obtained during that search may be deemed inadmissible.
2. Lack of probable cause: In order to obtain a search warrant, law enforcement must demonstrate to a judge that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the evidence sought will be found in a specific location. If this standard is not met, any evidence obtained through the search warrant may be excluded.
3. Miranda rights violation: The Miranda warning, derived from the Fifth Amendment, requires law enforcement to inform individuals of their right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning. If a suspect’s Miranda rights are violated, any statements made during that time may be excluded from trial.
4. Coerced confession: If a confession is obtained through coercion, threats, or physical or psychological abuse, it may be deemed involuntary and excluded from court proceedings.
5. Chain of custody issues: Evidence must be properly documented and stored to maintain its integrity. If there are gaps in the chain of custody or concerns about tampering, the evidence may be excluded.
6. Illegal wiretapping or surveillance: If law enforcement engages in unauthorized wiretapping or surveillance activities, any evidence obtained through these means may be excluded.
7. Violation of other constitutional rights: Evidence may also be thrown out if it is obtained in violation of other constitutional rights, such as the right to due process, the right to counsel, or the right to a fair trial.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
1. Can evidence be thrown out before trial?
Yes, evidence can be excluded before or during a trial if it is determined to have been obtained illegally or in violation of constitutional rights.
2. Who decides if evidence is thrown out?
The judge presiding over the case ultimately decides whether evidence should be excluded. They consider legal arguments presented by both the prosecution and defense.
3. Does the exclusionary rule apply to civil cases?
No, the exclusionary rule only applies to criminal cases. In civil cases, the rules of evidence may differ.
4. Can illegally obtained evidence be used in other legal proceedings?
Illegally obtained evidence generally cannot be used in any legal proceeding, including grand jury hearings or pretrial hearings.
5. What happens if key evidence is thrown out?
If key evidence is thrown out, it can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case. In some instances, the case may be dismissed entirely if the remaining evidence is insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
6. Can evidence obtained by a private citizen be thrown out?
The exclusionary rule generally does not apply to evidence obtained by private citizens. However, if private citizens act as agents of the government, their actions may be subject to constitutional scrutiny.
7. Can illegally obtained evidence be used for impeachment purposes?
In some cases, illegally obtained evidence may be used for impeachment purposes, which means it can be used to challenge the credibility of a witness.
8. Can evidence be thrown out if a warrant contains errors?
If a search warrant contains significant errors or misrepresentations, it may be deemed invalid, and any evidence obtained through it may be excluded.
9. Can evidence obtained during an illegal traffic stop be thrown out?
If a traffic stop is determined to be illegal, any evidence obtained as a result of that stop may be excluded.
10. Can evidence be thrown out if police fail to read Miranda rights?
If a suspect’s Miranda rights are not properly read, any statements made during that time may be excluded. However, physical evidence obtained during the same interaction may still be admissible.
11. Can illegally obtained evidence be used in a plea bargain?
Illegally obtained evidence can sometimes be used in plea bargain negotiations. However, if the case proceeds to trial, the evidence may be excluded.
12. Is the exclusionary rule applied universally around the world?
The exclusionary rule is primarily used in the United States, but similar principles are followed in other countries with different legal systems. The specific application may vary.