Question: What Does The Doctrine Of The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree Do????
Answer: It Bars Evidence In A Criminal Proceeding Obtained From Unlawful Searches & Seizures.
Two charges were made to a Discover Card at the Speedway store in Indiana. That same day, Officer Harves was dispatched to Love’s Truck Stop on a report that 2 individuals were attempting to purchase electronic tablets with a stolen credit card. After he arrived, Officer Harves detained the individuals, who were identified as Gyamfi and Asiedu. While Gyamfi was detained, Officer Harves searched his person and vehicle and located Gyamfi’s personal identification, several credit cards, and a receipt showing the Speedway Transaction. Upon finding the receipt, Officer Harves contacted the Speedway store to inform it that the transaction might have involved a stolen credit card and to make a recording of the camera surveillance. Officer Harves informed another police department of the arrest and sent his report, which contained his notes on the Speedway Transaction. Thereafter, a detective from that department contacted Speedway Security who pulled still shots of the Transaction from the surveillance footage. Also that same day, the Detective contacted Discover Card. During this conversation, Discover emailed the detective screen shots of the credit account related to the Speedway Transaction. Following his call with Discover Card, the detective called the management at the Speedway store and advised them “that they might want to report a crime.” The prosecutor’s office filed charges against Gyamfi arising out of his arrest at the Love’s Truck Stop. Following a hearing on Gyamfi’s motion to suppress, the trial court granted the motion and ordered evidence taken from the persons and the vehicles of Asiedu and Gyamfi suppressed. Thereafter, trial court dismissed all charges. Later, the State filed an Information in another court, charging Gyamfi with fraud, theft and forgery. Gyamfi filed a motion to dismiss asserting that all of the State’s evidence was derivatively gained as a result of information learned or leads obtained in the other case, which had been suppressed for violation of Gyamfi’s federal and state constitutional rights. The trial court conducted a suppression hearing and denied the motion to suppress as to all evidence with the exception of the evidence specifically suppressed by the prior court. A jury trial was conducted. Gyamfi was found guilty and now appeals.
On appeal, Gyamfi contends that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting testimony and evidence which was derivatively gained as a result of information or leads obtained during the unlawful search and seizure at the truck stop. Gyamfi maintains that the receipt establishing the Speedway Transaction was discovered during Officer Harves’ search of Gyamfi’s vehicle. As this search was declared illegal, all evidence obtained as a result thereof becomes fruit of the poisonous tree, and its admission by the trial court violated Gyamfi’s civil rights. The purpose of Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution is to protect from unreasonable police activity, those areas of life that Hoosiers regard as private. The “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine is one facet of the exclusionary rule of evidence which bars the admissibility in a criminal proceeding of evidence obtained in the course of unlawful searches and seizures. In application, the doctrine bars not only evidence directly obtained, but also evidence derivatively gained as a result of information learned or leads obtained during an unlawful search or seizure. To invoke the doctrine, a defendant must show that the search and seizure was illegal in the first place. Where there is no illegal search or seizure, there can be no fruit of the poisonous tree. Here, during the search following Gyamfi’s arrest, Officer Harves discovered a receipt showing the Speedway Transaction. Information derived from the receipt prompted Officer Harves to contact the Speedway store and to request a copy of the camera surveillance of the Transaction. In continuation of the investigation, Officer Harves gave all the information to a detective and told him specifically to check out the Speedway. The detective testified that all evidence presented in the Speedway case was all derived from those officers making the stop at the truck stop. The unlawfulness of the search and seizure at the truck stop is not contested and the State conceded it was illegal and the evidence that had been suppressed earlier should be suppressed by the trial court in the instant cause. While the original receipt of the Speedway Transaction was excluded by the trial court, it is clear that the contested evidence that was nevertheless admitted amounted to evidence obtained as a direct result of information that Officer Harves had learned during the illegal search. Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the contested evidence which amounted to fruit of the poisonous tree pursuant to the Indiana Constitution. 15 N.E.3d 1131