Pronouncements of the U.s. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1982-1983

JurisdictionUnited States,Federal
CitationVol. 12 No. 9 Pg. 1377
Publication year1983
12 Colo.Law. 1377
Colorado Lawyer

1983, September, Pg. 1377. Pronouncements of the U.S. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1982-1983


Vol. 12, No. 9, Pg. 1377

Pronouncements of the U.S. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1982--1983

by William H. Erickson

Chief Justice, Colorado Supreme Court
[Please see hardcopy for image]




A. Investigative Stops

1. Airport Searches: Florida v. Royer 1380

2. Note: Probable Cause and the Drug Courier Profile 1382

3. Canine Searches for Narcotics: United States v Place 1383

B. Plain View

1. Unopened Containers: Texas v. Brown 1384

C. Warrant Requirements

1. The Transformation of Aguilar-Spinelli

Illinois v. Gates 1386

2. Note: New and Postponed Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence 1388

D. Reasonableness

1. Open Seas: United States v. Villamonte-Marquez 1390

2. Electronic Beepers: United States v. Knotts 1391

3. Reopening Containers: Illinois v. Andreas 1392

4. Protective Searches: Michigan v. Long 1394

E. Inventory Searches at Jailhouse

1. Illinois v. Lafayette 1395


A. Double Jeopardy

1. The Blockburger Rule: Missouri v. Hunter 1396

B. Contempt

1. United States v. Rylander 1398

C. Due Process

1. Unconstitutional Vagueness or Overbreadth: Kolender v Lawson 1398

2. Note: Constitutionality of Stop and Identify Statutes 1399

3. Civil Commitment and the Insanity Plea: Jones v. United States 1400

4. Note: The Insanity Defense Under Fire 1402

D. Self-Incrimination

1. South Dakota v. Neville 1403

E. Confessions

1. Oregon v. Bradshaw 1404

2. Wyrick v. Fields 1406

3. Note: Confusion in the Aftermath of Edwards v. Arizona 1406

F. Immunity

1. Pillsbury Co. v. Conboy 1407


A. Right to Counsel

1. Substitute Counsel: Morris v. Slappy 1408

2. Non-Frivolous Appeals: Jones v. Barnes 1409


A. Death Penalty

1. Appellate Procedures

a. Barefoot v. Estelle 1410

2. Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances

a. Zant v. Stephens 1412

b. Barclay v. Florida 1413

3. Instructions

a. California v. Ramos 1414

B. Disproportionate Sentencing

1. Limitations on Rummel v. Estelle 1414

a. Solem v. Helm 1414


A. Procedural Due Process for Prisoners in State Institutions

1. Hewitt v. Helms 1416

B. Medical Care for Injured Arrestees

1. City of Revere v. Massachusetts General Hospital 1416


A. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

1. Disclosure of Grand Jury Materials: United States v. Sells Engineering, Inc 1417


A. Punitive Damages

1. Smith v. Wade 1418

B. Witness Immunity

1. Briscoe v. LaHue 1419

C. Military Immunity

1. Chappell v. Wallace 1420


The United States Supreme Court ended its 1982--83 term by again releasing a flood of opinions in the final weeks before adjournment. The Court issued 152 full opinions, as compared to the record 143 opinions issued last term. Nearly one-third of the opinions were released in the final three weeks of the nine-month term, and many were the Court's most significant decisions. Twenty-one percent of the cases this term were decided by a divided, 5-4 Court. Unfortunately, the Court's decisionmaking


was fractious, particularly in the area of criminal law. Important issues were sidestepped, and otherwise authoritative decisions were confused by concurring and dissenting opinions, which often resulted in pronouncements that fail to provide effective guidance or clear statements of the law.

The Current Term

The most significant decisions of the 1982--83 term concerned issues outside the criminal law field. In a 7-2 decision with far reaching implications, the Court held unconstitutional the "legislative veto," or procedure by which Congress enacts bills delegating authority to the President or federal agencies while retaining power to override by a simple majority vote the actions taken pursuant to the legislation. Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 51 U.S.L.W. 4907 (U.S. June 23, 1983). The Chief Justice's opinion declared that the congressional power to invalidate the Attorney General's decisions to allow particular deportable aliens to remain in the country violates the constitutional requirements preserving the separation of powers, and that Congress "must abide by its delegation of authority until that delegation is legislatively altered or revoked." The broad formulation of the opinion may affect as many as two hundred statutes, including the important War Powers Resolution and the Military Appropriation Authorization Act, which retain congressional invalidation authority.

The Court also announced several decisions which resolve important issues regarding taxation. In United States v. Ptasynski, 51 U.S.L.W. 4674 (U.S. June 6, 1983), the Court affirmed the constitutionality of the "windfall profits" tax on decontrolled crude oil by holding that the exemption of most of the Alaskan oil fields from the tax does not violate the uniform "duties, imposts, and excises" clause of Article One. The Court declared that the uniformity clause "gives Congress wide latitude in deciding what to tax and does not prohibit it from considering geographically related problems." In addition, the Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld a statute allowing a state income tax deduction for any parent who incurs educational expenses at any public or private elementary or secondary school, Mueller v. Allen, 51 U.S.L.W. 5041 (U.S. June 29, 1983), which may clear the way for the approval of legislation authorizing tax credits for tuition paid to private schools. However, in Bob Jones University v. United States, 103 S.Ct. 2017, 76 L.Ed.2d 157 (1983), the Court held that a private school which adopts racially discriminatory practices is not eligible for federal tax-exempt status.

In the criminal law field, the decisions this term evince a shift away from constitutional interpretations that previously expanded the protected rights of criminal defendants. Viewing the decisions on a broad basis, there appears to be a growing influence of the more conservative voting bloc of Chief Justice Burger and Justices William H. Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor. In perhaps the most significant and surprising criminally related decision this term, the Court declined to rule on whether a "good faith" exception to the federal exclusionary rule is constitutional. Illinois v. Gates, 51 U.S.L.W. 4709 (U.S. June 8, 1983). The Court stated that since the issue was not presented to the state courts, it was not subject to review by the Supreme Court. Five Justices, however, eased the requirements for the police to obtain search warrants based on information supplied by confidential informants by rejecting the precise standards required by the Aguilar-Spinelli test to evaluate the reliability of the information and substituting a new standard based on the "totality of circumstances."

In one of the several death penalty cases decided this term, the Court approved an expedited procedure by which federal courts may review the habeas corpus petitions of those on death row. Justice Bryon R. White's opinion in Barefoot v. Estelle, 51 U.S.L.W. 5189 (U.S. July 6, 1983), stated that once the district court issues a certificate of probable cause indicating that a defendant's habeas corpus petition is not frivolous, the court of appeals may combine argument on the merits on his appeal and on his application for a stay of execution into a single proceeding and decide both issues in one opinion. Justice Thurgood Marshall, in a dissenting opinion, severely criticized the majority for the use of such "special truncated procedures" in death penalty appeals.

In another Eighth Amendment case, the Court held that a life sentence imposed pursuant to a habitual offender statute and grounded on a defendant's history of petty, non-violent offenses violates the constitutional proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Solem v. Helm, 51 U.S.L.W. 5019 (U.S. June 28, 1983). The decision seemingly departed from Supreme Court precedents holding that non-capital sentencing decisions are purely a matter of legislative prerogative and that prison sentences that are disproportionate in relation to the crime committed raise no constitutional issues. However, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. distinguished the life sentence imposed against the non-violent, petty habitual offender that was upheld in Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. 263 (1980), on the basis that, unlike the earlier case, the defendant in Solem was completely barred from the possibility of parole. The Court's conclusion that "a criminal sentence must be proportionate to the crime for which the defendant has been convicted" will likely increase the number of cases where review is sought because of the sentence imposed, and was announced in the midst of complaints from a number of the Justices about the Supreme Court's already overburdened workload. See Burger, Report on the State of the Judiciary, 69 A.B.A. J. 442 (1983); Hellman, Caseload, Conflicts, and Decisional Capacity: Does the Supreme Court Need Help?, 67 Judicature 28 (1983).

In a significant but confusing Fifth Amendment decision, a plurality of the Court held that a defendant's statement, "What is going to happen to me now?" and his subsequent statements to police officers after he had invoked his right to counsel evinced a willingness and desire to discuss the investigation and constituted a waiver of his Miranda ri...

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