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UNITED STATES V. WATKINS: ELEVENTH CIRCUIT OVERRULES PRIOR PRECEDENT

Updated: Nov 30, 2021



In United States v. Watkins, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit imposed a higher burden of proof for when the government seeks to introduce evidence through the “ultimate discovery” exception to the exclusionary rule of evidence. The exclusionary rule prohibits evidence from being admitted into court proceedings if it was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment; however, the ultimate discovery exception allows the government to introduce otherwise excluded evidence by showing it would ultimately have been discovered absent the unlawful conduct. Previously, the Eleventh Circuit used the “reasonable probability” standard to determine whether evidence would ultimately have been discovered. However, in Watkins, the court overruled this precedent, explaining that the United States Supreme Court required the use of the preponderance of the evidence standard. The court also concluded that this was the proper burden of proof in its own view.


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