Case Studies in Criminal Procedure

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9780131700444: Case Studies in Criminal Procedure

Cases show clearly what officers have to know about constitutional law in order to not lose the case on the street before they ever get to the prosecutor's desk. Each case is selected to do two things: 1) Set out constitutional rule of law, and 2) Show how that law works in application to facts in an actual case.  A valuable resource for police officers and police officer academies.

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The study of criminal procedure is the study of constitutional requirements governing criminal prosecution.  The Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution sets out guaranteed rights that citizens have relative to the government; four of those first ten amendments deal specifically with rights people have during the course of criminal prosecution.  The Fourth Amendment protects us from the police, mandating procedures for lawful searches and seizures.  The Fifth Amendment contains the guarantee of due process, a cornerstone of freedom.  The Sixth Amendment protects us from the prosecutor, guaranteeing standards for trial.  The Eight Amendment protects us from the courts, mandating reasonable bail and fines and prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.  Each of these is a critical component of criminal prosecution, with study of the Fourth Amendment surely the most important and the complex.

 

This book is not design as a text.  It presumes students are studying criminal procedure and are using a text that sets out the basic constitutional rules that govern the investigation and prosecution of alleged criminal behavior.  This collection of cases is designed to help students understand how the constitutional rules work.

 

This book has been successfully used in classroom settings, where students are placed in groups of 4-6 people (groups that are small enough to ensure that each student will participate and large enough to give students the benefit of other’s thinking).  The students begin by discussing the questions posed at the end of a selected fact pattern.  The thinking is this: if the student can clearly articulate the constitutional rile and the student’s analysis of how that rule applies to the facts at hand, the student demonstrates understanding of the material.  Sometimes students think they understand the material, but they cannot articulate or explain how the principle applies.  These exercises force that articulation and illustrate for the student where the "soft spots" remain.  After they have completed their analysis, they read the court’s opinion in the case and understand how that court though the reasoning should proceed.  These are non-threatening exercises because students are working with one another in an ungraded atmosphere.  They may make mistakes and they will help other who make mistakes.  And, in doing so, they will learn.  Students report that they enjoy working with these cases and find them instructive.

 

Some cases raise a number of issues related to a single subject or related to a number of different subjects.  Those cases were selected to illustrate how the various constitutional principles governing criminal procedure influence one another and how a decision with respect to one may impact another.  Especially when we are working with exceptions to Forth Amendment protections, we discover that one exception may "feed" on another.

 

In some if these cases the courts rely on United States Supreme Court precedent.  The Supreme Court cases relied upon are cited.  Sometimes the courts rely on other lower court opinions.  Those lower court opinions are not cited; the text here simply notes an omitted citation with “[*]”.

 

We begin with some introductory material, reviewing the concepts of federalism and privacy.  Federalism offers citizens constitutional protection in both the federal and state constitutions, and offers the unique opportunity for a defendant to find constitutional protection in the state constitution when that protection is not available under the federal constitution.  Privacy is not specifically guaranteed in the Constitution, but it is an important principle in search and seizure law and it is important for students to understand how to determine when a reasonable expectation of privacy exists.

 

We then move to examination of the Fourth Amendment protections.  The Fourth Amendment guarantees that "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."  In this amendment, the government promises that arrests and searches will be premised on probable cause and (preferably) will be accompanied by a warrant.  In this section we examine the constitutional meaning of probable cause for arrest and for search.  Cases on warrants focus here on search warrants because that is the arena in which the constitutional questions most frequently arise.

 

With the protections of the Fourth Amendment in mind, we begin our exploration of how those protections are enforced and the exceptions to those Fourth Amendment protections.

 

Chapter Six examines the Exclusionary Rule and its general application.  The Exclusionary Rule is the mechanism created by the Supreme Court to hold the government to its constitutional promises.  It declares that if the government gets evidence unconstitutionally, that evidence will be excluded from the trial.  That is, the penalty for unconstitutional discovery of evidence on the part of the government is that the government will not profit from misdeed.  Cases on the Good Faith Exception, Hot Pursuit, Exigent Circumstances, Fruit-of-the-Poisonous Tree, Attenuation, Independent Source, and Inevitable Discovery exceptions are included in this section.

 

The next six chapters deal with exceptions to the Fourth Amendment that are the real meat of understanding search and seizure.  The Fourth Amendment guarantees that the government will not search our property, or us nor will it seize our property, or us unless the government has probably cause and (preferably) a warrant.  Exceptions have been created that restrict those protections:

 
  • The Search Incident to Arrest exception allows the government to search us without any search probably cause and without a search warrant, if the police have made a lawful, custodial arrest;
  • The Consent exception allows the government to search us without any search probably cause and without a warrant if we have consented to that search;
  • The Stop and Frisk exception allows the government to stop us if police have reasonable suspicion that we are engaged in criminal activity, and it allows them to frisk us if they have reasonable suspicion to believe we are armed and dangerous;
  • The Plain View exception allows the government to observe things in plain view (if the police are lawfully in a place from which that observation is made) and to seize evidence without a warrant if the police have observed it in plain view;
  • The Automobile exception allows the government to stop and search our automobile if police have probable cause to believe evidence of a crime will be found in the vehicle;
  • The Open Fields exception allows the government to trespass on our property and seize evidence of crime if that trespass and seizure of evidence occurs outside the cartilage of the home.
 

In the final section of the book, we examine constitutional protections at trial.  We begin with constitutional protections that come into play during interrogation and that govern admissions and confessions; this examination focuses primarily on Miranda cases that are designed to protect the Fifth Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.  We then move to the law that has developed in the arena of eye witness identification, focusing primarily on the constitutional entitlements to counsel and to due process that come into play here.  Finally, we examine the constitutional right to assistance of counsel and the corresponding issue of effectiveness of counsel.

 

Throughout the book we focus on federal constitutional provisions and seek to understand how they actually work.  Students discover quickly that constitutional rules are easily stated.  The challenging part comes in applying them in light of the facts in real cases.  This book is designed to meet that challenge.  We have cases here to illustrate each of the important rules in criminal procedure.  Cases have been selected primarily on the grounds that they illustrate a specific constitutional principle, and that the court explains its reasoning and tries to show how the principle actually works.  The cases in this collection are all lower court opinions; that is, no Supreme Court opinions are included.  That is purposeful.  Students are invited to understand and question the reasoning the courts lead us through in these cases.  In some instances, confliction opinions on the same point are included in order to illustrate how these constitutional rules can be interpreted toward different ends.  Indeed, reasonable mind can differ; students are invited to understand some of these differences.  Since these are all lower court opinions, students must understand that they are not definitive, they are subject to reversal.  But they are, nonetheless, illustrative of thoughtful analyses of the constitutional principles raised.

 

All but one of these cases has been drawn, with permission, from the Criminal Law Reporter, published by the Bureau of National Affairs.  This is the best source of abbreviated case material available for students and professors of criminal procedure.  The Criminal Law Reporter is published approximately twice a month and each issue contains scores of cases covering virtually every important topic in criminal law and criminal procedure.  The Bureau of National Affairs was enormously generous in allowing this use of their material.  Without doubt, students of criminal procedure will benefit from their willingness to contribute to this educational effort.

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