Criminal defendants in Georgia have certain constitutional rights that begin the moment they are apprehended by the police. One of these rights is the freedom from illegal search and seizure of evidence by the police. When this happens, the evidence cannot be used in a court proceeding against the defendant. This is known as the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine.
In a trial, the prosecutor will try to introduce evidence that was obtained by the police. However, the evidence may have been taken in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, such as when police enter a home unannounced and without a warrant and take evidence. The defendant’s attorney may then file a motion to exclude any evidence that was taken during this search because it was illegally obtained, so law enforcement cannot benefit from it.
This legal doctrine is not absolute, and there are a number of exceptions to it. In some instances, law enforcement illegally takes evidence that they would have inevitably discovered at a later point. Alternatively, the evidence that was taken has only a loose and attenuated connection to the illegal search. Additionally, if law enforcement later legally finds and seizes evidence that was previously taken illegally, it may also be used in court against the defendant. Finally, there is a good-faith exception for law enforcement.
If a person has been arrested and charged with a crime, they may need the help of a criminal defense attorney. On their own, defendants might not know of their constitutional rights and how to make sure that they are protected. An attorney may realize that some evidence being used against their client has been illegally taken by law enforcement and then file a motion in court to have this excluded from the trial.