Inevitable discovery

The inevitable discovery doctrine is an exception to evidentiary rules requiring that evidence be suppressed because it was obtained improperly. If the evidence obtained in violation of one’s constitutional rights would have eventually been discovered despite the constitutional violation, it will be admitted in court.
The U.S. Supreme Court created the doctrine requiring courts to suppress evidence as the tainted “fruit” of unlawful governmental conduct in its ruling in Sil-verthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920). In that case, the Court ruled that not only should the illegally obtained evidence be suppressed, but that other incriminating evidence derived from the primary evidence (the “poisonous tree”) should be suppressed as well. The Silverthorne Court, however, limited its holding, advising that the subsequently discovered evidence does not automatically become “sacred and inaccessible.” The Court directed, “If knowledge of [such facts] is gained from an independent source, they may be proved like any others.”
In Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963), the Court reaffirmed and extended the exclusionary rule to evidence that was the indirect product or “fruit” of unlawful police conduct. Once again, however, it emphasized that illegally obtained evidence need not always be suppressed, stating, “We need not hold that all evidence is ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ simply because it would not have come to light but for the illegal actions of the police. Rather, the more apt question in such a case is ‘whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint.’”
While both these cases involved search and seizure violations of the Fourth Amendment, the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine has extended to the violations of the right to attorney guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, (see, e.g., United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (1967)), as well as to violations of the protections against self-incrimination in the Fifth Amendment (see, e.g., Murphy v. Waterfront Comm’n of New York Harbor, 378 U.S. 52, 79 (1964)).
The foundation for the exclusionary rule is that the “drastic and socially costly course” is needed to deter the government from trampling on the constitutional and statutory protections of its citizens. In adopting the rule, the Supreme Court has held that the way to ensure those protections is to exclude evidence even when it means that obviously guilty persons will go unpunished for their crimes. In short, prosecutors are not to be allowed to take advantage of the government’s illegal conduct.
The inevitable discovery doctrine is intended to guarantee that law enforcement and prosecutors are not put in a worse position simply because of some earlier error or misconduct. Thus, the Supreme Court has held that if the government can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the information or evidence ultimately or inevitably would have been discovered by lawful means, then the exclusion of that evidence will have no deterrent value, and the evidence should be admitted. As the Court noted in Nix v. s, 467 U.S. 431 (1984), “Exclusion of physical evidence that would inevitably have been discovered adds nothing to either the integrity or fairness of a criminal trial. . . . Fairness can be assured by placing the State and the accused in the same positions they would have been in had the impermissible conduct not taken place.”

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