Considering everyone who could be affected, is it an overall benefit or detriment for everyone’s rights in the country for a court to be able to use the “exclusionary rule” and the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine” to exclude illegally obtained evidence?
The exclusionary rule dictates that evidence that has been obtained illegally or from unlawful arrest be declared inadmissible in a court of law. This was introduced to help prevent the abuse of constitutional rights by government agents and police officers. With this rule, the court suppresses evidence obtained unconstitutionally, such as unlawful seizure or search. Exclusion of evidence means that it cannot be used against the defendant in any way. If a judge suppresses key evidence, the prosecution might have to drop the charges. In most situations, there are advantages and disadvantages of each, and the exclusionary rule is no different. However, in my opinion, the exclusionary rule is generally beneficial to the concerned parties.
The major benefit that resulted from the formation of the exclusionary law is the maintenance of judicial integrity. It is reasonably right to argue that the judicial system would lose its dignity and reputation if its decisions are based continuously on evidence collected through gross law violation. Therefore, the court should at no time use tainted evidence to serve as an example to the public that it does not condone illegalities from government officials and decisions made are not a result of illegalities (Ma, 2012). A court should not be convicting criminals and, at the same time, break the law in due process. The court officials are expected to uphold the oath of office, and declining to become an accomplice to breaking the law is one way. The public becomes confident in court to make sober decisions on criminal proceedings and other matters.
The other benefit of the exclusionary rule is to deter police from breaking the law. In a larger percentage of the legal proceedings, most investigations are conducted by the police, and often, it is they who break the laws regarding the collection of evidence. The integrity of the entire judicial process should be maintained at all stages, and therefore, police should follow suit by acquiring proof in the right way. The judicial system integrity is most vulnerable at the stage of evidence acquisition by police officers. Thus, excluding illegally obtained evidence is one way of ensuring the police remain on the right side of the law (Turner & Weigend, 2019). There is no doubt that the people’s harassment by police officers, denial of personal rights, and searches without warrants reduced greatly. The rule is a way of ensuring that police officers remain professional and uphold their work values at all times.
The exclusionary rule ensures there is no violation of the rights of individuals being prosecuted. Human rights law ensures that people are given a fair trial, not subjected to arbitrary searches, right to privacy, and one is not forced to testify against themselves. The exclusionary rule is a mechanism of making sure that human rights are protected. Without such a rule, the laws that have been set to ensure a fair would be turned to just written words that don’t stand in a court. Without the rule, police officers and state agents would often use any available means to acquire evidence from the involved parties. People would be at more risk of being harassed and denied human rights since police officers have the upper hand in being listened to by the government. Inclusion of this rule is a provision that shows human rights need to be observed at all times.
Exclusion of unlawful evidence has an indirect effect of reduction of violation of human rights. One may think exclusion is a way of preventing human rights violations in the future; exclusion shows that potential perpetrators are not worth using torture and other illegal techniques to acquire evidence since it will not be allowed in court. However, it is the criminal justice system’s role to determine whether there is another way that could improve the protection of human rights. Exclusion of evidence is somehow a kind of compensation to the victims whose rights have been violated. Therefore, police officers will feel motivated and always encouraged to use the right procedure and accord victims’ due rights while conducting investigations.
On the other hand, one of the major disadvantages of the rule is that it has minimal effect on innocent people. Innocent people shall always be innocent no matter how the police officer tries to harass them. The concept of exclusionary rule shields criminals from being convicted (Wilkes, 1975). Criminals are good at what they do; thus, if the investigations are not conducted thoroughly and on time, they are likely to walk free (Gaille, 2017). In some situations, police officers must apply a little force to get what they want, but it is upon them to use their power in the right way. In my view, the exclusionary rule should be a concept that simplifies the entire court process. However, as of now, the rule only seems to make the work of police officers harder.
Another disadvantage is that it makes the judicial process costly since more resources are required. The exclusionary law’s primary goal is to protect suspects from harassment, but it also creates more work for the administrators. The inclusion of more and tougher regulations results in higher costs and expenditure of the judiciary. For instance, a criminal’s conviction may take longer than it should due to a lack of key evidence. This also means that the state must have enough officers to handle investigations. Otherwise, some cases will take longer in court. A higher number of state agents results in a higher wage bill for the government (Cameron & Lustiger, 1984). Therefore, the exclusionary rule made the just system costlier.
The introduction of the exclusionary rule minimized the probability of having manufactured evidence in a court of law. A court requires documentation of any form of evidence to be used against the person being prosecuted. If the evidence is not documented, there are chances that the evidence shall not be admitted in court. In this case, the police officers have more power than other parties and have a say in a person’s prosecution. Police officers who work in bad faith or those who don’t follow the moral code are likely to manufacture evidence against an individual. With the exclusion rule, the probability of false evidence being created by police officers is minimized greatly (Turner, 2014). The police officers must have a smart presentation of where the information was obtained; otherwise, there might be no conviction. Every individual is given a fair trial, as it should be.
The rule of exclusion upholds the concept of an individual is innocent until proven guilty. I believe that courts should operate on the assumption of innocence before proof of guilt. It would be wrong and unfair in a situation where the suspects are believed to be guilty even before the legal proceedings kick-off. Such scenarios are experienced where the police are allowed to present evidence from any source. Not every individual who is presented before a jury is guilty. A significant number of people in jail are innocent, but they were convicted based on evidence obtained illegally. The exclusion rule eliminates the presumption or prejudgment that an individual in court is guilty of the alleged charges. The prosecutors must work harder and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty.
In conclusion, the exclusionary rule is generally beneficial to the affected parties. The rule has several downsides; however, the pros outweigh the cons, thus considered beneficial. The major disadvantages of this rule are some criminals who ought to be convicted are given a chance to walk free. Secondly, it makes the court process costly and time-consuming. The major advantages include minimized chances of fabricating evidence against a suspect. The exclusionary rule helps maintain the judicial system integrity and prevents the police and other state agents from breaking the law. It also ensures that suspects are not harassed and police officers do not infringe their human rights. With the exclusionary rule, the individuals are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Cameron, J., & Lustiger, R. (1984). The Exclusionary Rule: A Cost Benefit Analysis. FRD, 101, 109.
Gaille, L. (2017). 9 Exclusionary Rule Pros and Cons. Retrieved 8 December 2020, from https://vittana.org/9-exclusionary-rule-pros-and-cons
Ma, Y. (2012). The American Exclusionary Rule: Is There a Lesson to Learn from Others?. International Criminal Justice Review, 22(3), 309-325.
Turner, J. I. (2014). The exclusionary rule as a symbol of the rule of law. SMUL Rev., 67, 821.
Turner, J. I., & Weigend, T. (2019). The Purposes and Functions of Exclusionary Rules: A Comparative Overview. In Do Exclusionary Rules Ensure a Fair Trial? (pp. 255-282). Springer, Cham.
Wilkes Jr, D. E. (1975). A Critique of Two Arguments Against the Exclusionary Rule: The Historical Error and the Comparative Myth. Wash. & Lee L. Rev., 32, 881.