Course: Introduction / Procedural Law
This rule means that tainted evidence can be admitted into court if the evidence would have been found by lawful means anyway.
Nix v. Williams (1984) is a landmark Supreme Court decision that established an inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule is a legal principle that requires courts to exclude evidence obtained in violation of an individual’s constitutional rights. The rule is designed to deter law enforcement officers from engaging in unconstitutional behavior and to protect individual rights and liberties.
The Facts in Nix v. Williams
In Nix v. Williams, the defendant was charged with the murder of a young girl who had been abducted from a hotel. The defendant had been arrested and was in police custody when he revealed the location of the girl’s body to law enforcement officers. The defendant’s confession had been obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and was therefore inadmissible under the exclusionary rule.
However, the prosecution argued that the location of the girl’s body would have been discovered anyway through a search that was already underway. The Supreme Court agreed and established an inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule.
The Doctrine Established in Nix v. Williams
The inevitable discovery exception allows evidence that was obtained in violation of an individual’s constitutional rights to be admissible in court if the evidence would have been discovered by lawful means anyway. In Nix v. Williams, the Supreme Court held that the exception applied because the location of the girl’s body would have been discovered through a search that was already underway when the defendant revealed the location.
The decision in Nix v. Williams has been the subject of ongoing debate and controversy. Critics argue that the inevitable discovery exception can be used to justify unlawful police conduct and that it can lead to violations of individual rights and liberties. Supporters of the exception argue that it is a necessary tool for law enforcement in certain situations and that it helps to prevent the exclusion of relevant and reliable evidence.
Since the decision in Nix v. Williams, the inevitable discovery exception has been applied in a number of other cases. In 2011, for example, the Supreme Court held in Arizona v. Gant that the exception applied when law enforcement officers discovered evidence during a search incident to arrest that was not authorized by the arrest warrant. The Court held that the evidence was admissible because it would have been discovered anyway through an inventory search.
On This Site
- Criminal Justice | Section 4.5: The Legal Environment of Policing
- Read the Abridged Case on this site
On Other Sites
- Fishkin, J. A. (1984). Nix v. Williams: An Analysis of the Preponderance Standard for the Inevitable Discovery Exception. Iowa L. Rev., 70, 1369.
[ Glossary ]
Last Modified: 06/30/2023