Good Essay On Criminal Law Paper
Riley v California
The question before the court was whether police would need a specific warrant to search the digital data from say a phone of an arrested person. In this particular case, Mr. Riley was arrested and the police had access to his smartphone in which they (read police) retrieved information connecting the arrested person to a previous shooting. The defendant, Mr. Riley, argued that the information retrieved from his smartphone was contrary to his privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment. In essence, his argument was that the court must disregard the information derived holding that the search had violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court unanimously held in favor of the defendant holding that police officers needed a warrant to search and or seize the digital information of an arrested person. The court further observed that digital data did not present immediate danger to a police officer and would therefore fall outside the category of warrantless searches as established in Chimel v California.
Interest about Case
The interest on the case resonates around the application of the Fourth Amendment in the 21st Century. It is imperative to appreciate the technicalities in terms of privacy and implementation of the law that the current technologies present to society. In this particular case, the court was called upon to balance between protecting the privacy rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and bringing law breakers to the law. It is my postulation that the former won.
Sources, purposes and jurisdictions of criminal law in the case
The main source of the law in the case was the Constitutional Fourth Amendment. Law enforcement officers need to adduce sufficient evidence to hold persons responsible for crimes. However, in doing so, they must follow due process which includes observing the Fourth Amendment on searches and seizures.
Accomplice liability and criminal liability
Accomplice liability accrues to somebody by virtue of participating in a crime principally committed by another person. Accomplice liability arises consequent to the aid one gives either before or after the crime. It may be aid in line to helping in the preparation or providing cover to the actual criminal. On the other hand, criminal liability accrues consequent of having committed a crime. In proving criminal liability, two elements have to be ascertained. These are the mental intent and the act of crime itself. Under the mental intent, it is proved that the accused actually intended to commit the crime and had the mental awareness of his or her actions. On the other hand, under the actus reus, it is submitted that the criminal actually committed the crime.
In Riley v California, the question of accomplice liability may arise if the digital data was admissible. This is because the same would have been used to track down the accomplices to the crimes who may have participated in planning and executing the said crimes. However, the inadmissibility of the digital data evidence necessarily defeats any chances at the accused or his accomplices being brought to book. The question of criminal liability does arise. The mental intent and the actus reus are proved by adducing evidence that the accused actually committed the crime and the mental awareness. One way of proving mental awareness involves inter alia the analysis of conversation on phone. Such evidence must, however, be obtained following the due process and remaining cognizant of the Fourth Amendment on searches and seizures. It is embarrassing in this particular case that the police officers acted outside the law by accessing the digital data before procuring a warrant for the same. Had they procured the said warrant, they would have been able to obtain a conviction by virtue of the incriminating evidence from the digital data of the accused person.
Elements of a crime
For one to be held to have committed a crime, all the elements of the crime must be proved. Therefore, the difference among elements of a crime lie in the issue each element represents. For instance, the actus reus represents the actual committing of the offence. For actus reus to be proved, the prosecutor has to put the accused at the scene of the offence. The action of committing the offence has to be proved to some agreed standard. On the other hand, the mens rea denotes the mental intention to commit the offence. In this case, merely placing the accused at the scene of the offence is not sufficient. The prosecutor must prove that the accused intended to commit the crime or formed the intention to commit the crime at the time of committing the crime. Another interesting and critical element of the crime is concurrence. In concurrence, the time in terms of the actus reus and the mens rea must be the same. That is, there must be concurrence. One cannot have the mental intention after having committed the crime. In the American jurisprudence, failure to prove concurrence would fatal for the prosecutor as the court would deem that no crime was committed.
Moore, J., Langton, J., & Pochron, J. (2014). The Cost of Privacy: Riley v California's Impact on Cell Phone Searches. The Journal of Digital Forensics, Security and Law, 9(3), 7-18.