The Exclusionary Rule

“The exclusionary rule makes evidence inadmissible in court if law enforcement officers obtained it by means forbidden by the Constitution, by statute or by court rules”, (Oaks, 1970).

This is a court action enforcing citizen’s constitutional rights. The rule means that evidence obtained from an illegal search and seizure is automatically inadmissible in court. The policy helps to discourage police and law enforcement agencies from manipulating the judicial system. This includes an acting deterrent against 4th and 14th amendment rights to a fair and speedy trial. Although judicial injustice is not the intention of the system, it does occur. This can be as a result of administrative, police, or judicial misconduct and error.

The origin of the exclusionary rule was first enforced in the 1961 hearing Mapp v Ohio. When Miss Mapp did not consent to a search of her property, police entered and searched her home unlawfully.  The police did not find any suspects during the search. However, police found pornographic material. Miss Mapp was charged and prosecuted for sexual content. The case was sent to the Supreme Court where Mapp v Ohio became the foundation and enforcement for the exclusionary rule. “The Court imposed the exclusionary rule on the states, holding that the failure to exclude evidence that state officers had obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure violated the defendants’ rights under the due process clause of the 14th amendment”, (Oaks, 1970).

The exclusionary rule ensures that evidence gathered in an illegal search is inadmissible. However the exclusionary rules also applies to “any evidence that is later gathered as an indirect result of the illegal search and seizure”, (NPC, 2015). This is known as the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine as seen in the case of Wong Sun v United States (1963). In this case, law enforcement used knowledge obtained during surveillance to conduct an illegal search and arrest of Mr. Way. Mr. Way told police he obtained narcotics from Mr. Toy. Mr. Toy was then detained and searched as well and narcotics were found in his possession. Because Mr. Way was searched and seized illegally, the information he provides the law enforcement as a result is also inadmissible.  The Supreme Court found that, “we think it is clear that the narcotics were ‘come at by the exploitation of that illegality’ and hence that they may not be used against Toy”, (Wong Sun v United States, 1963).

It is important to note that there are exceptions to the exclusionary rule. This is known as the, good faith exception. This occurs, “where an officer reasonably believes that she is acting under a valid warrant, the exclusionary rule does not apply because there is misconduct that can be deterred; the early cases applying the good faith exception”, (Kanovitz, 2012, p.255). This can occur due to in invalid warrant, invalid evidence or information, or administrative error. It shows that agents are acting with good intent.

Additional exceptions are: (1)the independent source doctrine- if after the fact law enforcement goes back to conduct a lawful search and seizure to find the evidence; (2) inevitable discovery doctrine- if the evidence would have been discovered anyway; (3)attenuation doctrine- when a lawful or unlawful search cannot be determined.




Kanovitz, J. (2012). Constitutional Law. 13th ed. Routledge. New York, NY. NPC. (2015). The exclusionary rule. National Paralegal College. Retrieved from:

Oaks, D. (1970). Studying the exclusionary rule in search and seizure. The University of Chicago Law Review, 37(4) p.665-767. Retrieved from:

Wong Sun v. United States, (1963). No. 36. United States Supreme Court. Retrieved from:


About Russia Robinson

I use my writing talents, and skills I’ve learned through academics and experience, to benefit the greater good of society. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I give informative information on a variety of topics and issues that affect society. I also write creative works like children’s books, short stories, poems, and a novel in progress. I earned a BA in English creative writing and American literature from San Francisco State and graduate studies in Technical Writing at Kennesaw State University. Through my career in education and mental health I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher, working in education, social services, and mental health. Interested in my writing services? Feel free to contact me via email.
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