Criminal Justice Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, 2005 Term

Published date01 December 2006
Date01 December 2006
Subject MatterArticles
Recent Legal Developments
Criminal Justice Decisions of the
Supreme Court of the United States,
2005 Term
James L. Maddex Jr.
Georgia State University, Atlanta
Among the mainline criminal justice issues that were addressed by the Supreme Court
during its 2005 term were warrantless consent searches and a further exploration of
the “knock and announce” aspect of the execution of search warrants. Fair trial and related
issues were at the heart of several cases. The Court addressed the scope of a nonindigent
criminal defendant’s right to be represented by the attorney of his or her choice, and, in
another case, it considered the scope of the right of the accused to confront the source of
statements that were introduced at trial by the prosecution. Two decisions dealt with the
affirmative defenses of duress and insanity. The harmless error doctrine’s application to
judicial overreaching in noncapital sentencing was explored in one case. Three others
addressed capital sentencing issues, and in another case the Court held that a death row
inmate should be permitted to pursue a civil rights action to challenge a state’s method of
administering lethal injection. The past decade has presented the Court with ample oppor-
tunities to interpret provisions of two congressional efforts in 1996 to curtail the volume of
postconviction litigation, and there were several such decisions last term. A case that arose
in the correctional setting put prison officials on notice that inmates whose functional dis-
abilities were ignored would have access to an important statutory remedy.
There was a decision that addressed the First Amendment protections of a prosecutorial
agency employee who claimed that he had suffered retaliation after criticizing the actions
of other criminal justice personnel. In another case, the Court disapproved of Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales’s reliance on the federal Controlled Substances Act to prevent
the practice of physician-assisted suicide nationwide. Operators and clients of abortion
clinics suffered a setback when the Court held that they could not use key federal statutes
to seek recompense for or protection from the violent actions of protesters. On June 29,
2006, the last day of the term on which decisions were announced, the Court once again
reminded the executive branch that it did not have unlimited procedural options for bring-
ing suspected terrorists to justice, even if they were aliens.
The 2005 term of the Supreme Court produced 69 cases in which there was a signed
majority or plurality opinion, of which 30 are summarized here because they have at least
some relevance to the field of criminal justice. Citations, including quoted passages, are
referenced to the Supreme Court Reporter alone. Statutory citations appear only at the
appropriate point in the text.
Criminal Justice Review
Volume 31 Number 4
December 2006 406-429
© 2006 Georgia State University
Research Foundation, Inc.
hosted at
Maddex / 2005 Supreme Court Term Criminal Justice Decisions 407
The Fourth Amendment
Hudson v. Michigan (2006)
Justice Scalia began the majority opinion in this closely divided case by acknowledging
the well-established common law principle, reaffirmed in Wilson v. Arkansas (1995) and its
progeny, that before entering a residence to execute a warrant, “law enforcement officers
must announce their presence and provide residents an opportunity to open the door” (126
S.Ct. at 2162). The “knock-and-announce rule” has also been found to have several excep-
tions that the Supreme Court has held reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, such as
when there is a need to enter quickly to head off an anticipated violent response or to pre-
vent the destruction of evidence. The issue in the present case centered on the remedial con-
sequences of a police entry that the state conceded did not comply with legal standards that
govern the knock-and-announce rule. The officers waited only 3 to 5 seconds after announc-
ing their presence before they entered Hudson’s residence. The warrant that they were
executing did not contain a “no-knock” provision, nor did the officers claim that exigent
circumstances justified a quick entry. The ensuing search revealed cocaine and a loaded
gun, and Hudson was subsequently convicted on a drug possession charge.
The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the decision of the Michigan Supreme
Court that, notwithstanding the Fourth Amendment violation committed by the officers’ entry,
the exclusionary rule would not apply to the seized evidence. Justice Scalia’s majority opin-
ion traced the evolution of the judicially promulgated exclusionary rule, emphasizing its costs
and the many exceptions that had been fashioned by the Court throughout the rule’s history
in American justice. He also called attention to the increased availability of other remedies for
violations of Fourth Amendment rights, including civil rights suits and administrative sanc-
tions against offending police officers. Justice Scalia found that there existed ample theories,
such as inevitable discovery and attenuation, to support the Court’s decision not to apply the
remedy of exclusion to knock-and-announce violations such as occurred here. He noted that
the interests to be protected by the knock-and-announce policy were centered on protecting
privacy and dignity in one’s home, but they did not preclude seizure of evidence by police
when they were executing a valid warrant. The final portion of Justice Scalia’s opinion was
joined by only three other justices. Here, he attempted to square the result in the present case
with the other recent Supreme Court knock-and-announce decisions.
Justice Breyer wrote for the four dissenting justices. Among his contentions was that the
Court’s decision had no support in precedent (in an appendix, he catalogued 41 cases that
reached a contrary result) and that the decision would undermine the practical value of the
knock-and-announce rule by destroying the strongest incentive to comply with it. The dis-
sent noted that in spite of the large number of knock-and-announce violations that had been
documented, there had been few significant victories by complaining parties who brought
civil actions, notwithstanding Justice Scalia’s confidence in the viability of remedies other
than exclusion.
United States v. Grubbs (2006)
This case arose out of a challenge to the constitutionality of evidence seized from
Grubbs’s home under the authority of an anticipatory search warrant. Such warrants typically

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