Assignment Overview Unit 5
The appeal made to the Supreme Court by James Smith falls within the scope of the Fourth Amendment and the citizens’ constitutional rights. As established in the case scenario, Mr Smith was arrested for burglary after his neighbour forced open the front door, saw the stolen property, and called the police. The law enforcers detained Mr Smith immediately in fear that he would dispose of the property before they could get a search warrant. Therefore, the questions that will guide the Supreme Court’s ruling are whether the evidence gathered without a search warrant and used to convict Mr Smith violates the Fourth Amendment. Secondly, the Court will address whether the exclusionary rule established by the Court serves as a remedy for Mr Smith during his conviction.
The action by the police to arrest Mr Smith without a search warrant is a violation of his constitutional rights. Notably, the constitution provides the rights of people to be secure in their persons, houses, and effects. This bill of rights implies that whether or not a person is a suspect in a crime, they have the right to be secure in their property. The established right can only be denied when the Court issues a warrant for a seizure or search of one’s premises. Furthermore, the Fourth Amendment protects people from warrantless searches of places or seizure of persons or objects in which they have a subjective expectation of privacy deemed reasonable in public norms (“Expectation of Privacy,” n.d.). In this case, Mr Smith has a subjective expectation of privacy of his property, his apartment. Therefore, it is argued that the warrantless search conducted in his apartment was a breach of his constitutional right to be secure in his house.
The present opinion is based on the legal precedent of the “Weeks v. United States” case, which addresses a similar matter. Notably, police entered the Fremont Weeks home and seized papers that were used to convict him of transporting lottery tickets through the mail (“Weeks v. United States,” n.d.). In its ruling, the Supreme Court held that the seizure of items from the Week’s residence was a violation of his constitutional rights (“Weeks v. United States,” n.d.). Notably, every individual has a legal right to privacy, which was infringed by the police’s action to seize the papers without the benefit of a warrant. Factoring the doctrine of stare decisis in the current case, the Court argues that evidence seized in Mr Smith’s residence without a warrant was a violation of his constitutional rights.
The current opinion is also based on the philosophical arguments of the Supreme Court in the Mapp v. Ohio case. Notably, Dollree Mapp was convicted of possessing obscene materials after an illegal police search of her home for a fugitive (“Mapp v. Ohio,” n.d.). Apart from the search being warrantless, the evidence gathered did not relate to the crime being investigated. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. An analysis of the Mapp v. Ohio case shows that an analogy can be applied in the current situation because the latter case is similar to the earlier one. Therefore, as ruled by the Supreme court in the previous example, the illegal police search in Mr Smith’s scenario violated the Fourth Amendment; hence, the evidence obtained is inadmissible in a state court.
However, it is also argued that despite the existence of a violation of Mr Smith’s constitutional rights, the case is subject to further analysis under the Fourth Amendment, which justifies the warrantless search. Framers of the Constitution argue that there are exigent circumstances that make warrantless searches lawful, among the most significant in this case, in which evidence faces imminent destruction (“Fourth Amendment,” n.d.). It is opinionated that the existence of exigent circumstances is a valid probable cause for the police to conduct a warrantless search and seizure. Notably, the police in the current case admitted arresting Mr Smith immediately for fear that the suspect would have disposed of the property before they returned with a search warrant. The suspect may have probably sold the property after realizing that his neighbor knew about his action, or destroyed it to hide the incriminating evidence. Fear of losing the most significant evidence that would incriminate the suspect is considered a valid probable cause for the warrantless search. Furthermore, fear of suspect’s imminent escape before obtaining a warrant of seizure is a probable cause for the police to make a warrantless arrest, which implies that Mr Smith cannot seek protection under the Fourth Amendment
Nonetheless, the philosophical underpinning of the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, and effects against unreasonable search and seizures may influence the Court’s ruling. As stated in the Weeks v. United States case, “to allow private documents to be seized and held as evidence against citizens” would mean that the protection of the Fourth Amendment declaring the right to be secure against such and seizures would be of no value whatsoever (“Weeks v. United States,” n.d.). The Fourth Amendment has significance in matters of privacy, and it would be erroneous for the Court to overlook its provisions in the current case. For this reason, as ruled in previous cases, it is argued that allowing warrantless evidence seized in Mr Smith’s apartment to be used in his conviction in the Court would nullify the value of the Fourth Amendment that was established to protect people and their property against warrantless seizure.
Due to the existing philosophical underpinning that has a significant impact on the Court’s ruling, the exclusionary rule will be applied. The framers of the court-created remedy, arguing that the government is prohibited from using most evidence gathered in violation of the United States constitution (“Exclusionary Rule,” n.d.). The deterrent implies that only limited evidence gathered during a warrantless search or improperly elicited self-incriminatory statements are admissible in the Court of Law.
Nonetheless, the framers of the rule also carved several exceptions, the most significant to the current case scenario being the inevitable discovery doctrine. The doctrine “allows admission of evidence that was discovered in an unlawful search or seizure if it would have been discovered in the same condition anyway, by an independent line of investigation that was already being pursued when the unlawful search occurred” (“Exclusionary Rule”, n.d., para. 6). Similarly, the Court may argue that the warrantless evidence gathered in Mr Smith’s apartment may have been discovered anyway by an independent investigation. The argument is based on the view that suspicions drove the neighbor to intrude Mr Smith’s apartment. In that case, had the neighbor reported the incident and an independent investigation established a probable cause for a warrantless search, the evidence would have been obtained in a similar approach. Therefore, the exclusionary rule does not apply as a remedy for Mr Smith, allowing most of the warrantless evidence gathered to be used in the Court of law.
In addition to relying on existing legal precedents and philosophical perspective of the U.S. Bill of Rights, the court ruling will be based on a rational analysis of societal forces that have a significant effect on Mr Smith’s convictions. Notably, it is opinionated that California’s Penal Code 459 PC is a societal force that guides the decision of the Court regarding Mr Smith’s conviction. California’s statute defines burglary as the act of entering any structure, room, or locked vehicle with the intent to commit a theft of felony (“Penal Code,” n.d.). Also, the changes in California’s AB109 guidelines provide that burglary qualifies as either a misdemeanor or felony commercial burglary, both of which are subject to considerable penalties and jail terms. The Court will weigh Mr Smith’s actions against the existing changes in California’s statute to determine whether the crime committed falls within the scope of the Penal Code. From the information provided, there is sufficient evidence that indeed a burglary was committed, as Mr Smith entered his neighbor’s house and stole his property. Therefore, Mr Smith is subject to conviction and punishment as provided in California’s statutes.
Based on a critical analysis of the current case, and the application of legal precedent, the Court will uphold that Mr Smith’s constitutional rights were violated. However, the Court also argues that the culprit cannot seek the protection of the Fourth Amendment nor the exclusionary rule established by the Court. Therefore, it upholds that evidence gathered against him can be used in the Court of law.
“Exclusionary rule” (n.d.). Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/exclusionary_rule
“Expectation of privacy” (n.d.). Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/expectation_of_privacy
“Fourth Amendment” (n.d.). Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fourth_amendment
“Mapp v. Ohio” (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1960/236
“Penal Code” (n.d.). California Legislative Information. Retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN§ionNum=459
“Weeks v. United States” (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/232us383