Constitutional Safeguards of the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments to the US Constitution

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Constitutional safeguards provided by US Constitution in the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments in regards to the criminal justice system are implemented to protect people against indiscriminate application of criminal laws and wanton treatment of persons suspected of violating the law. The amendments which are specifically designed to enforce constitutional rights of suspected criminals have had a significant impact in the criminal judicial sector. The workings of the courts in both juvenile and adult criminal proceedings and trials have been altered by these safeguards provided for by the amendments whereby the courts are required to conduct the proceedings or trials in a manner that is in conformity with the safeguards.

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A legal aspect that contradicts or offends the constitutional safeguards is deemed inadmissible in court. The paper shall conduct identify and evaluate the constitutional safeguards by the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments in addition to providing an analytical and comparative study on the various impacts of the safeguards in the day-to- day operation of adult and juvenile courts. The 4th amendment enumerates certain safeguards in regards to unreasonable searches. The amendment gives people the right to be secure in their persons, houses and personal effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The right is protected under the amendment which provides that it shall be not violated. Subsequently, the amendment provides that warranties shall only be issued is there is a probable cause and shall be supported by an oath or affirmation providing a detailed description of the place to be searched and persons or things to seized thereof. In essence the 4th amendment provides protection against general searches by the government. Law enforcement personnel are entrusted with the authority and power to conduct searches, investigations, make arrests and seizures.

However, this power is not absolute and is subject to limitations that require it to be exercised within the boundaries and the tenets of the law (Amar, 1994). When the police officers or law enforcement personnel exercise this power in a manner that exceeds or violates the prerequisite boundaries, the admissibility of the collected evidence is adversely jeopardized. It is the courts prerogative to ensure that the adduced evidence does not violate or offend the constitutional safeguards provided by the 4th amendment. The safeguards provided under this amendment only applies against a government action undertaken by a government employee whether state of federal or private persons working with a governmental agency. Thus under the 4th amendment, courts are not required to offer protection against bugging, or any forms of wiretapping conducted by private citizens such as private investigators even if the private investigator’s evidence directly links a person to the aforesaid crime. Courts are inclined to deny the admissibility of the private investigator’s evidence as it violated the safeguards provided under the 4th amendment. The private investigator’s evidence can only be admissible in court if it is sufficiently shown that he or she was working with law enforcement agency at the time of the collection of the evidence which was permitted by a warrant (Amar, 1994).

However, this aspect has often had adverse impacts in the courts. The core purpose of criminal purpose of any judicial organ is to provide justice to the victims and punish the perpetrators of crimes. However, the absenteeism or failure by courts to protect evidence gathered by private persons has at times occasioned an injustice thus contradicting the core essence of the criminal justice system. A suspect maybe let off the criminal justice hooks solely based on the fact that the evidence linking them to the crime cannot be admitted in court because it was gathered by private persons. Additionally, private investigators with certain clues or knowledge purtaining some crimes are reluctant to coming forward and hand over the evidence to law enforcement agency because they are not protected by the 4th amendment safeguards (Amar, 1994). Under the 4th amendment, courts are to invalidate searches and seizures carried out under probable cause without a court warrant. However, the US Supreme Court has provided that in certain situations, warrantless searches may be deemed reasonable under present circumstances and admissible in court. The ruling according to scholars provided an exception to the constitutional muster provided by the 4th amendment in regards to searches and seizures. In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 21 L. Ed. 889 (1968) the Supreme Court ruled that the 4th amendment prohibits from detaining pedestrians and or conducting any kind of searches on person without probable cause (Amar, 1994).

This provision applies to searches conducted under traffic laws. Courts articulate that a police officer must satisfy the probable cause requirement in pursuant to searches conducted in automobiles. In providing exceptions in the 4th amendment against seizures, courts strike a balance between the practical daily workings of a police officer and the privacy and freedoms interests of the public (Amar, 1994). In juvenile courts the application of the 4th amendment has resulted in divergent and contradictory rulings. The Arizona Court of Appeals relying on the case of Terry v. Ohio 392 U.S. 1, 16 (1968) in a case whereby a police officer encountered a juvenile sitting underneath a bridge wearing a heavy jacket under warm weather and conducted a search on the minor and found drugs on the minor and proceeded to arrest him. On ruling the court held that the minor was not seized and if it were a seizure it would not amount to an unreasonable seizure. Subsequently, in another ruling in the District of Columbia, police officers were conducting consent searches in a bus. During the searches, they approached a fourteen year old in the bus and began questioning him. On conducting a search on the boy they found crack cocaine on the boy and arrested him.

In the ruling the District of Columbia court of Appeals held that to a reasonable person based on the circumstances, the boy was not seized (Amar, 1994). The exclusionary rule in the US criminal jurisprudence was introduced by the Supreme Court in the case of Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914). The rule enables courts to exclude incriminating evidence against a defendant upon sufficient proof that the evidence was procured in a manner that offended the constitution (Levy, 1974). The rule gives the defendants an option to challenge the admissibility of evidence by filing of a pre-trial motion. Evidence heard or adduced at the pre-trial motion cannot be used against the defendant in the proceedings. If the evidence used in the pre-trial is not suppressed by the court, and is instead used by the jury to convict, the defendant can challenge the admissibility of that evidence on appeal.

However, the Supreme Court in the case of Lockhart v. Nelson, 488 U.S. 33 (1988), articulated that the exclusionary rule does not bar the retrial of a defendant in regards to suppressed evidence as the trial court’s error does not go to the question of guilt or innocence (Levy, 1974). The 5th amendment provides various safeguards offer the defendant protection against self incrimination, double jeopardy and the right to due process. The provision of the right against self incrimination based on evidence got via a compelling confession made by coercion or deception. Under this safeguard, courts are compelled to exclude such kind of evidence as it is they were got via uncivilized manner that offended the tenets of the constitution. The self incriminatory rule includes the right to remain silent which was realized by the US Supreme Court in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The court ruled that arrested persons must be explained their right to remain silent or have an attorney present during questioning (Amar & Lettow, 1995).

The ruling was meant to prevent acquiring of a confession from the suspect under pressure by police officers. This landmark ruling led to the creation of the Miranda Rights whereby police officers are required to inform an arrested person his constitutional rights to remain silent and have an attorney. If it is sufficiently proved that police officers violated a suspects Miranda Rights in obtaining evidence, courts render that evidence inadmissible as it was obtained on an illegality. Subsequently, the amendment provides a safeguard that prohibits governments from subjecting an individual to double punishment or trial of the same offence. This safeguard is called the right against double jeopardy. When conducting trials, the government has an obligation to inform the court of the previous convictions of the defendants regarding the same offence. Defendants can bring motions regarding the double jeopardy clause to challenge prosecution or overturning of a subsequent punishment (Amar & Lettow, 1995). Subsequently, the 5th amendment provides every defendant the right to due process which requires all criminal proceedings to be conducted in a fair manner that is impartial. Courts are allowed to allow accused persons the right to present fully their case and defend themselves adequately against the charged crimes. The right to due is applicable to all phases of a criminal proceeding from pre-trial to the final appellate decision. In juvenile courts, the right to due process is strictly enforced as required in adult courts. Juveniles are given the right to have an to call witnesses to appear on their behalf and remain silent. They are also accorded the right to cross-examine witnesses and obtain sub-poenas to compel witnesses to appear on their behalf. The availability of enforcing these rights in the juvenile courts has positively impacted the outcome of the court proceedings and the court cases. The juveniles have an equal and fair ability as the adults to fully and adequately exercise all their rights in the criminal trials. The awarding of these rights in the juvenile courts ensures that no miscarriage of justice is occasioned pursuant to the 5th amendment (Amar & Lettow, 1995). The 6th amendment gives defendants the right to a speedy trial which is conducted in public by a jury which is impartial. The amendment also provides the right of a defendant to have an attorney and be informed the nature and cause of the aforesaid charges. The US Supreme court has not given clear guideline or ruling that gives an exact time limit at which a trial should be deemed excessive and not speedy in consonance with the 6th amendment. Instead the court has provided a balancing test that is used in the other lower courts whereby it weighs the reasons and causes of delay against the prejudice suffered by a defendant occasioned by the delay. A delay of one year in bringing a defendant to trial can be deemed as contravening the speedy trial clause. However, defendants whose own actions have directly resulted to lengthy trials cannot claim the protection of the speedy trial clause (McCormick, Strong & Broun, 1999). Subsequently, the safeguard provided by the 6th amendment to inform the defendants to be informed the nature and cause of the charges is interpreted by courts in two distinct elements. The defendants must receive notice of any criminal complaint lodged against them and that defendants should not be tried and convicted on charges that vary from the crimes set out in the charge sheet. After the arraignment in court the written charges are read to the defendants to determine if the determine fully understands them (McCormick, Strong & Broun, 1999). Arraignment in court gives the defendants the right to be represented by a counsel. However, this right is not absolute as the defendants have a right to defend themselves in the course of the criminal proceedings in a process called appearing pro se. Courts also apply the exclusionary rule whereby any evidence obtained in a manner that offended the constitution is excluded from the trials. Subsequently, the right to have an impartial jury gives the defendant the right to a jury pool whereby the impartiality of the jury is determined via a voir dire. In juvenile proceedings courts may suspend the right to have a public trial if is of the view that it is the best interests of a child (McCormick, Strong & Broun, 1999). References Amar, A. R., & Lettow, R. B. (1995). Fifth Amendment First Principles: The Self-Incrimination Clause. Michigan Law Review, 857-928. Amar, A. R. (1994). Fourth Amendment first principles. Harvard Law Review, 757-819. Levy, L. W. (1974). Against the Law: The Nixon Court & Criminal Justice. Harper & Row. McCormick, C. T., Strong, J. W., & Broun, K. S. (1999). McCormick on evidence (Vol. 1). West Group Publishing

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Constitutional Safeguards of the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments to the US Constitution. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved December 9, 2022 , from
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