Criminal Procedure Essays Examples
Criminal procedures in America are essentially put in place in order to prevent discrimination when it comes to the application of criminal laws. They aim at ensuring proper treatment of suspected criminals according them their constitutional rights. The procedures give a guideline of the process from arrest to ultimate appeal in the courts. Understanding of these procedures mainly comes from the interpretation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments
The Fourth amendment is concerned with the right to being free from unreasonable search and ultimate arrest. According to this amendment, “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” (West's Encyclopedia of American Law 2005) Given that the police have the responsibility of doing investigations, searching and making arrests, many cases, where they have used unnecessary force, have been reported. The fourth amendment highlights the extent to which the police can go in fulfilling their duty. It is, however, worth noting that the protection offered by this amendment only covers government initiated action. Private or state instigated search or investigation is not covered here.
Here, the police understand that every individual possesses some reasonable expectation for privacy mostly in offices, their bodies and private property. It is, therefore, illegal to conduct searches without warrants. In some cases however it is permissible for searches without a warrant to be done through the Supreme Court (Israel et al., 2000).
According to the amendment, a police officer is allowed to question random individuals, but people are allowed not to respond. In case the police officer wants to detain the person, however, reasonable suspicion of criminal activity needs to be shown. Probable cause also can allow for a random search. Therefore, though the amendment calls for arrests to be done based on a warrant, some circumstances can call for arrest without warrants. Probable cause thus comes into play in order to prevent making the job of law enforcement impossible (Israel et al., 2000).
In seeking for an arrest warrant, the police officer must prove to the judge or magistrate the probable cause. This enforces the certainty that a crime has been committed, and an arrest is necessary. Here, the judge weighs the facts presented by the officers in order to establish probable cause. The warrant may be denied if the details given to the judge or magistrate are seen not to be enough (Israel et al., 2000). Faults in warrants can also lead to searches being deemed as illegal thus calling for cancelling.
The Fifth Amendment, on the other hand, covers a handful of issues in the criminal procedure. These include the death penalty, the right to due process and multiple trials for a given criminal offence. This Amendment states: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” (West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005)
The provisions in this amendment take effect once a suspected criminal has been arrested and is under custody. One important aspect of the amendment is the Self-Incrimination Clause. According to this clause, in order for the things a suspect says during interrogation while in custody to be admissible in a trial, a police officer has to inform the suspect a set of rights. First is the right to remain silent, consult an attorney straight away and have the attorney present during the interrogation. The suspect is entitled to a court-appointed attorney in case they cannot afford one. The suspect is also informed that after being read these rights, whatever they say may be used against them in court as part of the prosecution presentation
According to the clause, once a suspect requests for a lawyer, officers need to immediately stop the interrogations but can continue with other activities such as placing the suspect in line to be identified by the victims or taking pictures or blood samples. This clause protects the suspect from being forced to give evidence, and in the case that this happens, the evidence is nullified (Israel et al., 2000). Another right guaranteed by this amendment is the right of the suspect to be indicted by a grand jury. The jury is usually comprised of about 20 people from the district where the crime was committed. A majority vote is usually enough to return an indictment for the suspect. Another clause in the amendment protects the suspect from being prosecuted multiple times for committing one offence (Israel et al., 2000).
Lastly, the Fifth Amendment gives every suspect the right to due process. Due process refers to the case being overseen by a neutral and fair judge who allows the suspect make their defense. Due process takes effect from initial interrogation before the trial to activities that occur after the trial such as appeals. Any deviation from the due process results to unconstitutional ventures.
The Sixth Amendment, on the other hand, covers the trial period. It defines how the suspect can be constitutionally tried to prove guilt or not. According to this amendment, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” (West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005)
The rights created by this amendment come into play after an arrest. Before formally accusing the defendant, the government is not given a specified time period in which to do investigations about the crime or prosecute the suspect. According to the clause, if a year passes after arrest and the defendant has not been brought to trial, a violation of the Speedy Trial Clause occurs.
According to this amendment, once the charges are formally set, the defendants have the right to be given details about the said charges. Therefore, the accusations are formally lodged to the defendant through a complaint or any other avenue. Here, the defendant is protected from prosecution for a crime not mentioned in the formal charge.
After being formally charged, the defendant is arraigned in court whereby the charges are read, and the defendant allowed to plead guilty or not guilty. It is required for the defendant to be informed their right to counsel in order to prepare the defense. The option of self-representation is, however, available. Another right given to the defendant by the Sixth amendment is the right to be tried before an impartial jury in an open court. The impartial jury, in this case, presents a fair cross section of the said community with no prejudice or bias. During the trial, the amendment allows for the witnesses produced to be examined by the defendants. They are then allowed to give their defense (Israel et al., 2000).
The Sixth Amendment prevents the jury from making decisions without listening to all evidence, closing arguments of the opposing attorneys and before the judge gives the necessary instructions. Finally, if the jury arrived at a non-guilty verdict, the defendant is acquitted and free to leave the court. If guilty, sentencing occurs immediately for lighter offences while another hearing is required for major offences.
The 14th Amendment is key in the American Constitution since it is the building block of the civil rights enjoyed by every single American citizen. According to this amendment, every person in any state is guaranteed just treatment under the law. It also gives the people certain undeniable rights that cannot be obstructed by the state. These include the rights to property, life and liberty. The amendment also underlines the importance of the due process. Here, individual rights appertaining to the law have to be respected upon being accused of a criminal activity.
The different clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment leave room for the aspect of selective incorporation of the Bill of rights to the different states. In most cases, the Supreme Court has been called to decide such cases ((Israel et al., 2000).
The clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment are essentially meant to strengthen and highlight the jurisdiction of the federal courts. This is in respect to issues in the bill of rights that may cause controversy or debate with the state government.
"Criminal Procedure." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 9 February. 2015 from http://www.encyclopedia.com
Israel, J. H., Kamisar, Y., & LaFave, W. R. (2000). Criminal Procedure and the Constitution. Leading Supreme Court.
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