Philadelphia Criminal Drug Charges, Suppressing Drug Evidence & Incriminating Statements


The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine is very important in the area of Pennsylvania search and seizure law. The idea behind this doctrine is that the tree (illegal police conduct) produced fruit (drug evidenceincriminating statements, etc.); therefore, the fruit must be suppressed.

When this doctrine is applied, anything causally related to the illegal police conduct may be suppressed.

The following situation is exaggerated to demonstrate how the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine works.

Police pull over a car of young people in Philadelphia, without any basis to do so. The driver is asked to get out of the car and is hand-cuffed while police ask him whether there are any drugs in the car. He admits there are drugs in the trunk.

In the trunk, police find a large bag containing drugs, and a large amount of cash. The police suspect that the drugs are being dealt out of a specific house nearby. They arrest the driver and then go to the house, where they find more drugs, guns and evidence that the driver was dealing drugs out of the house. He is charged with drug dealing (Possession with Intent to Deliver) and multiple counts of unlawful possession of a gun.

Here, the initial stop was illegal because the police had no reasonable basis to pull the car over. It led to following:

  • the illegal custodial interrogation of the driver;
  • illegal recovery of drugs in the trunk;
  • illegal search of a home nearby;
  • illegal recovery of drugs in the home;
  • illegal recovery of guns/firearms in the home.

Therefore in applying the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, all the statements and evidence recovered, drugs and guns, would probably be suppressed, in which case, the charges against the driver would be dismissed.

It is important to note that there are some exceptions to the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. If the government can prove that it would have found the evidence another way, or if the connection between the initial illegal conduct and the evidence is too weak, then the evidence will be allowed and the case will continue. In the above example, if there is evidence that the police were already investigating the house for drug dealing and were going to make a raid anyway, the evidence found in the home would probably not be suppressed.

Related: Who is the Best Criminal Lawyer for Your Philadelphia Criminal Case?


If you or a loved one was arrested for a drug related charge in the Philadelphia area, including Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks County or in federal court, please call our criminal lawyers for a free consultation. (215) 515-0042

David S. Nenner is an experienced criminal lawyer who has handled many drug cases in both Pennsylvania state and federal court. He offers a free phone consultation for all drug and gun cases.

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