Criminal Law Foundations Evaluations
University of Phoenix
January 8, 2013
The United States Constitution was created to establish the new government after the colonies and early settlers broke free from the reign of England. This document established the foundation of the federal government that still stands today. The Constitution is focused on providing both liberty and prosperity to citizens of the new state (U.S. Const. pmbl., 1787). In an effort to avoid the universal control that England placed upon the colonies, the Constitution aimed to establish a clear set of guidelines for how citizens would be treated. This is true of both the original Constitution, as well as the Amendments later established through the Bill of Rights. This paper aims to identify and evaluate the safeguards established in the Constitution, and their impact, for both adult and juvenile court proceedings. Constitutional Safeguards
Careful review of the Constitution shows, that the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments establish Constitutional safeguards that have a direct impact on court proceedings Each of these Amendments defines the action that is to be taken by the State in a particular circumstance. In other words, these Amendments of the Constitution restrict the authority of the State and protect the rights of citizens. To better understand the safeguards that are established through these Amendments, further examination of each will be conducted. The Fourth Amendment
The Constitutional safeguard established by the Fourth Amendment is the prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. This Amendment was established to help protect an individual’s person, property, and other effects (“Bill of rights,” 1789). However, it does acknowledge that there will be times when search and seizure is necessary. In such cases, it mandates that a warrant be issued, but only upon probable cause. In other words, the Fourth Amendment stops law enforcement officials from entering a suspect’s property, be it their home, computer, etc., unless there is probable cause that evidence will be found.
It is important to note that there are exceptions to Fourth Amendment, which allows a law enforcement officer to collect evidence and even seize property in particular circumstances. One of these circumstances is if the owner of the property gives consent for search and seizure. There are also instances where individuals who do not own the property are able to give consent to the search, if law enforcement is reasonably led to believe that the consenting individual lives at the property in question. Another circumstance where the safeguard provided by the Fourth Amendment is not applicable is if evidence is in plain view. Meanwhile, another exception to the safeguard is if an individual is apprehended, law enforcement officials are permitted to search the individual and anything within their reach. Other exceptions include emergencies (such as a domestic abuse response or hot pursuit), searching of a vehicle (due to their mobile nature), and stop and frisk, which requires reasonable suspicion (“Exceptions,” 2007). The Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment provides several safeguards. Such safeguards include requiring a case to be tried in front of a grand jury if the nature of the crime is “infamous,” protecting individuals from self-incrimination, the concept of double jeopardy, and due process (“Bill of rights,” 1789). Each of these safeguards established through this Amendment play an important role in protecting the rights of individuals. Each of these safeguards must be looked at individually.
The declaration of a crime as “infamous” is determined by the possible punishment that may be imposed. Based on numerous precedents that have been set, the broad definition of an “infamous” crime is a felony or any crime that is punishable by death (***). Such crimes require a grand jury or a jury of peers who are given instructions regarding the law and are present throughout the duration of criminal proceedings. Self-incrimination is an individual’s Constitutional right to refuse to answer any questions or give testimony about his or her self. This safeguard is more commonly known as Miranda rights (Benoit, 2010). Meanwhile double jeopardy prohibits any individual from being tried for the same offence twice. The due process safeguard enacted by the Fifth Amendment requires that an individual’s life, liberty, and property be protected, as per the protections established through the various laws in the nation. Other safeguards are provided by the Fifth Amendment but are irrelevant to court proceedings and thus not evaluated. The Sixth Amendment
The safeguards provided through the Sixth Amendment are those that are most closely related to court proceedings. The Amendment grants individuals the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury where the crimes have been committed (“Bill of rights,” 1789). The safeguard of a right to a speedy trial works to minimize the amount of time between when an individual is charged or indicted and when the trial begins. This keeps law enforcement from detaining an individual for an extended period without engaging through the court proceeding to determine whether the individual is in fact guilty of the crime in which they are charged. The right to a public trial is also another important safeguard enacted by the Sixth Amendment. This safeguard can work to ensure that an individual’s rights are being fully given, as the public is able to witness the court proceedings, adding an additional layer of protection in ensuring the rights of the defendant. It is important to note, however, that this safeguard is not absolute, as there may be instances where a public trial hinders the defendant’s right to due process or presents danger to public interest (Benoit, 2010). The defendant is also provided the safeguard of an impartial jury through the Sixth Amendment. In other words, the defendant, or accused individual, is given the right to a fair trial. This means that the group of peers selected for the jury will objectively listen to the evidence that is presented and make their judgment of guilty or not guilty based on this information alone. This eliminates issues of outside influence such as media, or even coercion by plaintiff parties. Again, there are exceptions to this safeguard. For instance, in any trial where a jury is not required or present, this safeguard cannot exist. Impact of Safeguards
Each of the above discussed safeguards provided by the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments aim to protect the rights of the accused. Therefore, each of these safeguards has an impact on both adult and juvenile court proceedings. The safeguards provided through the Fourth Amendment primarily deals with the collection of evidence and of the evidence that is collected, what can be presented in any court proceedings. Thus, it affects court proceedings from an evidentiary standpoint. The safeguard against self-incrimination from the Fifth Amendment also influences courts from an evidentiary standpoint as it is directly related to how evidence is collected.
Defendants’ right to a grand jury for infamous crimes and due process through the Fifth Amendment also influence court proceedings. Specifically, the right to a grand jury will influence the structure of the court proceedings, as well as the timeline of the proceedings due to having to select a jury. Due process also has an impact on how court proceedings are engaged in to ensure that the defendant has a fair trial. Meanwhile, the safeguard of double jeopardy established in the Fifth Amendment impacts court proceedings in that once a defendant is found guilty or not guilty they cannot be tried again for the same crime of which they were accused.
The safeguards enacted by the Sixth Amendment also have a direct impact on court proceedings. The right to a speedy trial requires that the amount of time that lapses between indictment and the beginning of trial is short and not unreasonable. Likewise, as long as having a public trial does not impede upon a defendant’s right to due process and the public trial does not present a danger to public interest, this safeguard requires the courtroom to be open to the public, which can influence where the court proceedings can take place and other various logistics of the proceedings. Lastly, the safeguard of an impartial jury impacts court proceedings in a number of ways. Firstly, it affects the timeline of the proceedings, as jury selection must be conducted to ensure that an impartial jury is selected. Secondly, the way in which courtroom proceedings are conducted vary from those trials where a jury is not required.
It is important to note, that the impact these safeguards have upon juvenile court proceedings are different from adult court proceedings, as have been discussed. When a defendant is tried as a juvenile, safeguards vary. For instance, juveniles are provided the right to remain silent (self-incrimination) from the Fifth Amendment and protection from search and seizure as defined by the Fourth Amendment. However, juveniles are not afforded the right to a trial by jury, which means that the safeguard of an impartial jury through the Sixth Amendment is not extended to minors (“Constitutional,”). This affects the court proceedings of juveniles as it restricts such proceedings to a simple trial. It eliminates any need for jury selection and allows the court proceedings to take on more of a paternal air rather than a criminal air, as seen with adult court proceedings. Conclusion
In conclusion, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have provided individuals with many protections that must be upheld by law enforcement. This paper has explored the various safeguards that have been put in place through both the Constitution and the Amendments, through the Bill of Rights, and how they impact the court proceedings for both adults and juveniles. While there are several safeguards enacted through the Amendments, the majority of these safeguards are applicable to adult court proceedings, whereas juveniles are instead viewed as delinquents rather than criminals and thus not as many safeguards are provided.
Benoit, C.A. (2010, April). “Confessions and the Constitution.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/april-2010/confessions-and-the-constitution “Bill of Rights.” (1789). National Archives. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html “Constitutional protections afforded juveniles.” (n.d.). The United States Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/title9/crm00121.htm