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Iris Anthonniette Sunga



The Fruit of Poisonous Tree Doctrine states that evidence obtained from an illegal arrest,
unreasonable search, or coercive interrogation is not admissible in a court of law and must be
excluded from trial. The doctrine was established primarily to deter law enforcement from
violating rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. It is based on the rule that evidence
obtained through illegal search or illegal interrogation taints not only evidence obtained but also
facts discovered by the process.
The Fruit of the Poisonous Tress is an offshoot of the Exclusionary Rule which applies to
primary evidence. The doctrine applies only to secondary or derivative evidence. There must first
be a primary evidence which is determined to have been illegally obtained then secondary
evidence is obtained because of the primary evidence. Since the primary evidence is
inadmissible, any secondary evidence discovered or obtained because of it may not also be used.
Although, this doctrine expressly states that such evidence cannot be admitted as evidence
against a defendant, there are some exceptions to this doctrine. They are:1
1. Under the Doctrine of Inevitable Discovery- Evidence is admissible even if obtained
through an unlawful arrest, search, interrogation, or violation of an exclusionary law, if it can be
established, to a very high degree of probability, that normal police investigation would have
inevitably led to the discovery of the evidence
2. Independent Source Doctrine - evidence is admissible if knowledge of the evidence is
gained from a separate or independent source that is completely unrelated to the illegal act of the
law enforcers.
3. Attentuation Doctrine - evidence maybe suppressed only if there is a clear causal
connection between the illegal police action and the evidence. Or, that the chain of causation
between the illegal action and the tainted evidence is too attenuated i.e too thin, weak, decreased
or fragile. This takes into consideration the following factors:
a). The time period between the illegal arrest and the ensuing confession or consented
b). The presence of intervening factors or events
c). The purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.

1Admissibility of Evidence. Accessed 18 May, 2016.