Let's say a police officer searches a property without a warrant, and discovers a couple of people imprisoned there.

Would their testimony against the owner later be inadmissible as it's a result of the illegal search?


1 Answer 1


First, if the police officer had reasonable cause to believe that a crime was in progress then the search would not be illegal in the first place. However, let's assume the search was illegal.

Normally the evidence would be excluded under the exclusionary rule. However, there are two exceptions known as the independent source and attenuation doctrines.

The evidence of the police officer as to the imprisonment would be excluded. However, the evidence of the victims is independent of that illegal search and their testimony would be admissible. Further, that testimony would allow independent discovery and admissibility of any physical evidence in the property.

However, if the victims were dead, then there would be no independent discovery and none of the evidence would be admissible.

  • I see, thank you. What about Wong Sun v. US? That seems like a similar case where they excluded testimonial evidence.
    – mcc1789
    Feb 1, 2019 at 5:03
  • @mcc1789 In Wong Sun, the key difference is that the statements secured as fruit of the illegal search were statements from the criminal defendants whose 4th Amendment right was violated during the illegal search, not from victims of the crime per this hypothetical. The illegal search didn't violate the victim's rights and their release from unlawful captivity wasn't illegal, so their testimony is not tainted. If the captor confessed during an illegal search, however, the captor's testimony couldn't be used against him either per Wong Sun. supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/371/471
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 1, 2019 at 18:39
  • Okay, good clarification.
    – mcc1789
    Feb 2, 2019 at 1:51

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