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What is the fruit of the poisonous tree?

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2022 | White-collar Crime

One important doctrine to be aware of if you’re facing criminal charges is the fruit of the poisonous tree. This idea may pertain to your case, and it could help to get evidence excluded from court. 

Essentially, this doctrine says that if evidence has been gathered illegally after an illegal action, then that evidence cannot be used. It doesn’t matter if the evidence itself is incriminating or not. It cannot be used in court because it should never have been gathered in the first place. 

One example: No search warrant 

For instance, imagine that the police come to your house and ask to come inside. You know that you have embezzled money from your job and that you have cash in your house that you don’t want them to find. They don’t know this, however, and so you ask them if they have a warrant. They do not. 

You then tell the police that you’d rather they did not come into your home, but they do it anyway. This is an illegal search because they don’t have a warrant. They may find that money and eventually link it to the embezzlement at your place of employment, but the fruit of the poisonous tree says that they cannot submit that evidence in court. They should not have been in your home, and they invalidated their own case by violating your rights and entering your house without permission or without a warrant. 

This is just one example, and there are many ways that this can apply to various cases. Just make sure that you know exactly what legal options you have if this has happened to you, as it can significantly change how evidence is presented.