The 4th: Exclusionary rule

The remedy for a violation of an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights is called the exclusionary rule. Also known as the fruit of the poisonous tree, this rule prohibits the introduction of evidence that was unlawfully obtained. It is meant as a deterrence against violations of the Fourth Amendment.[1]

However, there are several exceptions to this rule. The first is the “good faith exception.” This means that the officers acted with an objectively reasonable good faith belief that there acts were lawful. [2] The second is the inevitable discovery exception. This exception requires that the state prove that the evidence would have ultimately been discovered by lawful means.[3] The final is the independent source exception which allows in evidence that was initially obtained unlawfully if it was subsequently obtained through independent and lawful means.[4]

Case Law

“The Fourth Amendment itself provides no remedy for a violation of the warrant requirement. Davis v. United States, –––U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 2419, 180 L.Ed.2d 285 (2011). However, the United States Supreme Court has fashioned a judicially-created remedy, the exclusionary rule, which is a deterrent sanction by which the prosecution is barred from introducing evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 2423. ‘Exclusion is not a personal constitutional right, nor is it designed to redress the injury occasioned by an unconstitutional search.’ Id. at 2426 (citations omitted). ‘The rule's sole purpose, [the Supreme Court] has repeatedly held, is to deter future Fourth Amendment violations.’ Id. Because ‘[e]xclusion exacts a heavy toll on both the judicial system and society at large,’ the Court has stated ‘the deterrence benefits of suppression must outweigh its heavy costs’ for the exclusion to be deemed appropriate. Id. at 2427. In addition, judicially-created exceptions have been established to ameliorate the harsh effects of the judicially-created exclusionary rule. Id.

State v. Brown, 401 S.C. 82, 88–89 (2012) (quotations omitted).

[1] State v. Brown, 401 S.C. 82 (2012).

[2] State v. Adams, 409 S.C. 641 (2014).

[3] State v. Spears, 393 S.C. 466, 482 (Ct. App. 2011).

[4] Murray v. United States, 487 U.S. 533 (1988).