The fourth amendment and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine
The situation that involved Don and Police Officer Jones in State X is a good case study in understanding the concepts involved in the Fourth Amendment, particularly the doctrine of suppression of evidence.
In the analysis of the case, one will see that the only crime that Don has committed is driving with an expired license. And for this case, State X has every right to punish him accordingly – with a fine of $100 and 10 days in the county jail.
However, it is also important that the fact that the constitution of State X has a clause identical to Amendment IV of the U.S.
Constitution, the other evidence obtained by Police Officer Jones in his encounter with Don cannot be used as evidence against Don in any court by reason of the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine. This particular doctrine opines that any evidence obtained illegally cannot be used in any court since this is in direct violation of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment.
Although Don did commit a violation of law in State X by driving with an expired license, this particular violation does not necessarily warrant a bodily search or even a search of the vehicle —even with the consent of the suspect. In the case of Florida vs. Bostick, we have learned that in the context of investigatory stops and detentions, Police may stop you for any reason, but are not entitled to any information other than your identification nor may they detain you without reasonable suspicion. (Flex Your Rights, 2006)
In this particular case, the Police Officer did not have any justifiable or probable cause to frisk Don because the latter was not an immediate or significant threat to the officer nor was there any sign that Don carried any illegal weapon.
Perhaps the only reasoning that can be applied by the Police Officer that might justify his stop and frisk action in this case is the tip or report given to him that a lone male driving in a car with an out-of-state license would be coming through town, traveling in an easterly direction, and carrying an illegal shipment of heroin. Just the same, the Police Officer went over and beyond his call and duty by frisking Don and subjecting him to a warrant less search on account of a traffic violation.
Furthermore, if there was any evidence that can be used against Don in this particular case is anything that is visible to eye of the Police Officer. The marijuana that was seized inside the car cannot be used by the State in convicting Don simply because it was obtained thru an illegal search. While it is given that Don consented to the search, the court should rule that the burden is on the prosecution to prove the voluntariness of the consent and awareness of the right of choice. (Find Law, 2006)
In this particular case, I am of the opinion that State X must rule in favor of Don and suppress all evidence obtained in the encounter between Don and Police Officer Jones since the search was done illegally and all evidence acquired as a result thereof should be considered inadmissible. Hence, the charges of illegal possession of marijuana and other dangerous drugs should be dropped. At best, Don should be convicted of driving with expired license –a direct violation of State X’s law– and should be netted the appropriate penalty.
Find Law, 2006: US Constitution, Fourth Amendment [online]
Available at: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment04/
[cited on: June 11, 2006]
Flex Your Rights, 2006: Fourth Amendment Supreme Court Cases [online]
[cited on: June 11, 2006]