Articles Posted in Criminal Constitutional Law

In a recent decision, the U.S. Supreme Court instituted a new rule when it comes to criminal law, police questioning and the safeguards surrounding the scope of Miranda. On February 24, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that if a criminal suspect requests to speak with his lawyer, the police must stop their questioning and cannot restart interrogating him until 14 days has passed. This new rule, outlined in Maryland v. Shatzer narrows the Court’s previous ruling on this issue.

In the 1981 case of Edwards v. Arizona, the Supreme Court established a clear rule to protect a criminal suspect who invokes his 5th Amendment right to an attorney against the pressures and coercion of police in the custodial interrogation setting. In short, the rule was that if a criminal suspect wants to speak with his lawyer, the police must stop their questioning and cannot restart their interrogation of him unless the suspect himself initiates the questioning on his own – otherwise the presumption would be that any subsequent waiver of Miranda would be the result of coercion. The Supreme Court’s decision in Maryland v. Shatzer limits that rule, now permitting to the police to essentially ignore the criminal suspect’s earlier request for a lawyer and reinitiate questioning after a period of 14 days if there had been a sufficient break in the custodial interrogation.

The Supreme Court’s decision on this critical criminal law issue appears to provide the police a bright-line rule of what they are and are not permitted to do. One might agree that the police and law enforcement in general need to have a checklist of ‘do’s and dont’s spelled out for them, otherwise we might invite them to engage in unconstitutional police practices…

The U.S. States Supreme Court recently ruled that a defendant’s Constitutional Right (per the 6th Amendment) was violated when the court refused to allow his uncle from watching the jury voir dire process at his criminal trial. As a result the ruling, the man had his cocaine trafficking conviction overturned.

In general, because the public has a First Amendment Right to access the jury voir dire process, a criminal defendant also has a Sixth Amendment Right to a public trial. In other words, the Supreme Court essentially stated that it doesn’t make sense for the public to have the right of access to public proceedings, but to then deny a defendant his right to to a public trial.

In this particular case, Presley v. Georgia, the criminal defendant’s lawyer objected to the trial court from excluding the defendant’s uncle from sitting in the same room with prospective jurors. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in a criminal trial, the courts are obligated to accommodate the public access.

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