Our Constitution is set up in a way that provides us with important protections against government abuses and police overreach. In our judicial system, everyone has the right to a fair trial for alleged crimes, and the opportunity to present a defense to the charges. That’s why there are certain specific procedures that police must follow when gathering evidence to use against a criminal defendant in court.
Fourth Amendment protections
Our constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures come from the Fourth Amendment. This Amendment governs when and how the police can validly collect evidence of a crime.
The police cannot pull you over, enter your house, or stop you on the street for no reason at all. They must have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime or that stopping you will reveal evidence of a crime, or they must have a valid warrant issued by a judge.
If the police search you or your property without sufficient justification, then they are in violation of your rights, even if they find evidence of a crime. This is where the exclusionary rule comes in.
The exclusionary rule
The exclusionary rule is simply a judicial principle that criminal courts use when deciding on the admissibility of evidence. If the police obtain evidence against you, but they do it in an unconstitutional way, the criminal court will not allow the prosecution to use that evidence against you.
There are a few important exceptions to the rule, which will allow the prosecution to use wrongfully obtained evidence. However, these exceptions are rare, and difficult to prove. In most cases, police cannot violate your constitutional rights in order to obtain evidence against you.
It can be a nerve-wracking experience to stand trial for crimes that the police allege that you have committed. At least you can rest assured that the police will not be able to use improperly and unconstitutionally obtained evidence against you in court.