Knowing Your Rights: A Guide to Understanding The Exclusionary Rule

The Exclusionary Rule is an important legal doctrine that protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. It has a long history in the United States, and its application varies from state to state.

In Nevada, understanding the Exclusionary Rule is essential for anyone who wants to know their rights when it comes to dealing with police officers or other law enforcement agents. This guide will provide an overview of the rule, explain how it applies in search and seizure cases, discuss some potential benefits and drawbacks for Nevadans, and offer insight into how it may affect future cases involving search and seizure laws in Nevada.

What is The Exclusionary Rule?

The Exclusionary Rule is a legal rule that prohibits the government from using evidence obtained through illegal or unconstitutional means. It prevents law enforcement from using information or evidence that has been gathered in violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. This rule applies to all levels of courts and all branches of law enforcement, including federal, state, and local agencies.

The Fourth Amendment reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

How Does It Apply To Search And Seizure?

The Exclusionary Rule applies to search and seizure cases in Nevada, in which law enforcement officers must have a valid warrant or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before conducting searches or seizures without consent.

If law enforcement does not have the proper authority to conduct a search or seize property, the evidence collected may be excluded from court proceedings. This means that the evidence cannot be used to establish guilt in criminal trials, and it also can’t be used to support probable cause for an arrest or detention.

What Is The Purpose Of The Exclusionary Rule?

The purpose of the Exclusionary Rule is to discourage law enforcement from conducting illegal searches and seizures. By prohibiting the use of evidence obtained in violation of constitutional rights, it serves as a reminder that law enforcement must abide by the Fourth Amendment when conducting investigations and performing their duties.

Examples Of When The Exclusionary Rule Applies

DUI cases are some of the most common cases in which the Exclusionary Rule applies.

In these cases, if law enforcement does not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull a driver over and administer a field sobriety test, any evidence collected from the test (such as a breathalyzer) may be excluded from court proceedings. This means they can’t use this evidence against you for a DUI conviction.

The Exclusionary Rule also applies to warrantless searches. If law enforcement officers do not obtain a valid search warrant or have the necessary probable cause to conduct a search, any evidence collected from that search may be excluded from court proceedings. For example, if an officer searches a home without consent or a search warrant, then found that you were in possession of illegal drugs, any evidence found may be excluded in court proceedings.

Impact on Criminal Cases

The Exclusionary Rule has a major impact on criminal cases.

Because the evidence gathered during an illegal search cannot be used as evidence in court, this serves as a deterrent to law enforcement from overstepping their boundaries and infringing upon an individual’s rights.

If evidence was gathered this way and it got thrown out, this makes it harder for prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—despite the defendant being “guilty.”

As a result, fewer convictions are obtained and individuals are more likely to be acquitted when this rule is applied.

Additionally, some believe that the Exclusionary Rule serves as a deterrent, encouraging law enforcement officers to adhere to the constitutional rights of individuals while conducting searches and seizures.

Exceptions to the Exclusionary Rule

While the exclusionary rule is there to protect your rights as an individual, there are cases where a “warrantless search” is allowed:

Search Incident to a Lawful Arrest

When police arrest someone, they may search the person and the area immediately within the person’s control without a warrant. This includes a body search or a pat down and the area surrounding the arrestee’s immediate control.

For example, if a police officer arrests someone and finds drugs in the person’s pockets, then the evidence collected can be used in court proceedings as it was discovered during a search incident to a lawful arrest.

Plain View

The plain view doctrine allows law enforcement to seize evidence without obtaining a warrant if they have the right to be present and they can see the items in plain view.

For example, if a law enforcement officer walks into your home with a valid search warrant and sees drugs on your kitchen table, they can seize the evidence without obtaining an additional warrant.


If you voluntarily give permission to law enforcement to conduct a search of your home or property, then any evidence obtained from that search can be used in court proceedings.

No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

If an individual does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, then any evidence collected may be admissible in court.

For example, if you are talking on your phone outside and a police officer hears you say incriminating things, they may be able to use that evidence in court as you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public area.

Another example could be officers searching inside an abandoned building or in a stolen vehicle.


Certain inspections are exempt from the Exclusionary Rule, such as DUI checkpoints. These are conducted to ensure public safety and are not considered a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

Exigent Circumstances

In certain emergency circumstances, officers can conduct a warrantless search. For example, if an officer hears cries for help or has reason to believe that someone is in immediate danger, they may be allowed to enter the premises without a warrant.

Another example, which you probably have seen in movies are police officers getting “permission” from a judge to arrest a criminal who’s trying to flee the country.

Facing Criminal Charges? Hire The Defenders

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, it’s important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At The Defenders, our team of attorneys has the knowledge and skills necessary to defend your rights and protect your future.

If you feel you have been wrongfully accused or your rights have been violated by law enforcement, don’t hesitate to contact The Defenders. We will fight for you and make sure that you get the justice you deserve.

Our attorneys:

  • Will aggressively put in all efforts to get the penalties lowered.
  • Can help you achieve fair settlements or plea deals.
  • Can protect you from the prosecution.
  • Can examine the evidence better than you.
  • Will fight for your rights to help keep your criminal history clean.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help!

The Defenders Criminal Defense Attorneys - Best of Las Vegas Gold WinnerFrequently Asked Questions

What is the exclusionary rule?

The exclusionary rule is an American legal doctrine that prohibits the use of evidence obtained in violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights. This means that if police search an individual’s home, property, or belongings without a proper warrant, any evidence collected during the search cannot be used against them in court proceedings.

What is a warrantless search?

A warrantless search occurs when law enforcement officers conduct a search without obtaining a warrant. Certain exceptions allow for these types of searches, including in cases of emergency, plain view, and consent.

Will evidence from a warrantless search be admissible in court?

Whether evidence from a warrantless search can be admissible in court depends on the circumstances. It is recommended that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine what evidence can be used against you in court.

The Defenders have a team of attorneys who understand the complexities of warrantless search laws and are dedicated to protecting your rights and achieving the best outcome possible for your case. If you’ve been accused of a crime, don’t hesitate to contact The Defenders for experienced legal representation.

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