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S. Edmund Johnson

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Why Can't Improperly Obtained Evidence Be Used In A Criminal Trial?

In the United States (and possibly other countries as well), whenever evidence in a criminal case is obtained improperly, it is not admissible for trial, and is thrown out. When I say 'improperly', I'm referring to evidence obtained without proper procedure, search warrant, etc. In many cases, this has led to the guilty party not being brought to justice. Not being a lawyer, but rather an engineer with a reasonably logical mind, I find that this practice is totally illogical. I mean, evidence is evidence. There is no real logic in restricting evidence.

I can't believe that this tenet of law was actually written as such, but rather I believe that it had to have been some sort of precedent created by some judge or jurist. And it may have been descended down from old English law. But somewhere along the line, some totally illogical person thought it would be a good way to discourage the police from abusing their powers. In other words, punishing the police. Unfortunately, it is not the police that are punished, but rather the public.

So I actually have three points/questions here:
• Why not instead say, evidence is evidence, and whether obtained legally or illegally, why should it not still be used in a criminal trial?
• And if the evidence was obtained illegally, then why not punish the police with suitable jail time or suitable fines in order to discourage the abuse of police powers?
• Finally, why cannot this tenet of law be struck down with a new law that allows ALL evidence to be used in a trial, and establish proper punishment for any abuses used in obtaining the evidence?

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    Aug 31 2012: When evidence obtained illegally cannot be used, it is simply because, no one can be sure it is legitimate. You cannot just show up with a bloody knife, claiming it was taken from the accused's home - you have to be able to prove it.

    Another thing is the rights of an individual. A lot of people are questioned by the police during an investigation... most of them will be innocent of the crime and should not have their home/work searched and money, computers or other items seized.

    The law has to be equal for all. We are all innocents until proven guilty, and even criminals have rights - they might be guilty of a crime, but should not automatically have the right to be innocent until proven guilty taken away in other cases.

    The entire concept of a court is, that one is innocent until a verdict decides otherwise. All doubts should benefit the accused.
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      Sep 1 2012: .
      "When evidence obtained illegally cannot be used, it is simply because, no one can be sure it is legitimate. You cannot just show up with a bloody knife, claiming it was taken from the accused's home - you have to be able to prove it."

      Maintaining the chain of evidence has nothing to do with The Exclusionary Rule.

      "Another thing is the rights of an individual. A lot of people are questioned by the police during an investigation... most of them will be innocent of the crime and should not have their home/work searched and money, computers or other items seized."

      You're right. But that is why we require a search warrant signed off by a judge. However, if as in my example shown above, the police inadvertently exceed the boundaries of a search warrant, then shouldn't they be punished for that? And shouldn't the evidence still be allowed in court?

      See my additional explanation, above.

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