A great number of Cape Cod criminal cases revolve around the issue of whether evidence that the government seeks to introduce at the trial of the case was legally obtained. The defendant may argue that a particular search was violative of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. If the court agrees that police violated the defendant’s constitutional rights with regard to a certain search, the evidence obtained through that illegal search must be excluded from the jury’s consideration because it is the “fruit” of the “poisonous tree.” Without the evidence that can no longer be submitted at trial, the government’s case against the defendant may be much weaker, or perhaps non-existent.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the defendant was arrested on a drug trafficking charge. He filed a motion to suppress evidence found in his vehicle by police, insisting that the evidence was the fruit of an illegal search. According to the defendant, the exit order given to him by the police officer who stopped him was illegal, and thus the evidence found by the officer after the defendant stepped out of the vehicle should have been excluded. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress, and he appealed to the intermediate appellate court. That court reversed the lower tribunal’s denial of the defendant’s motion. The Commonwealth sought further review from the state’s highest court.
Decision of the Court
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the court of appeals’ reversal of the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that exit order was not lawfully issued and that, therefore, the evidence obtained by the search should have been suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree.