The framework of laws and rules that govern the administration of justice in cases involving an individual who has been accused of a crime, beginning with the initial investigation of the crime and concluding either with the unconditional release of the accused by virtue of acquittal (a judgment of not guilty) or by the imposition of a term of punishment pursuant to a conviction for the crime.
Criminal procedures are safeguards against the indiscriminate application of criminal laws and the wanton treatment of suspected criminals. Specifically, they are designed to enforce the constitutional rights of criminal suspects and defendants, beginning with initial police contact and continuing through arrest, investigation, trial, sentencing, and appeals.
The main constitutional provisions regarding criminal procedure can be found in Amendments IV, V, VI, and VIII to the U.S. Constitution. The FOURTH AMENDMENT covers the right to be free from unreasonable searches and arrests:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. A warrant is a paper that shows judicial approval of a search or arrest. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment does not require a warrant for all searches; rather, it prohibits unreasonable searches. All warrantless searches are unreasonable unless they are executed pursuant to one of several exceptions carved out by the Court.
The FIFTH AMENDMENT covers an array of procedural concerns, including the death penalty, multiple trials for the same criminal offense (DOUBLE JEOPARDY), SELF-INCRIMINATION, and the general right to DUE PROCESS. It reads, in relevant part,
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury ? nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
The SIXTH AMENDMENT addresses the procedures required at trial. It provides,
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Finally, the EIGHTH AMENDMENT states, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
At first, these amendments were construed as applying only to federal prosecutions. The states were free to enact criminal procedures contrary to them until the passage of the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT in 1868. The Fourteenth Amendment forbids the states to "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" (§ 1). Under the Fourteenth Amendment, states must provide most of the
criminal safeguards found in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments.
Federal courts must comply with all the criminal procedures listed in the amendments to the Constitution. For state courts, the U.S. Supreme Court has adopted a "selective incorporation" approach to determine precisely what process is due a criminal defendant. Under this approach, only fundamental rights are protected.
According to the Court, fundamental rights in criminal procedure include freedom from unreasonable SEARCHES AND SEIZURES; freedom from CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT; assistance of counsel; PROTECTION AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION; confrontation of opposing witnesses; a SPEEDY TRIAL; compulsory process for obtaining witnesses; a jury trial for prosecutions for cases in which the defendant could be incarcerated; and protection against double jeopardy. The only protections that are not specifically required of states are the Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive bail and the Fifth Amendment requirement that infamous crimes be prosecuted by grand jury.
The judicial interpretation of fundamental rights has allowed states considerable leeway in shaping their own criminal procedures. Although their procedural rules and statutes are similar in many respects, federal and state legislatures are responsible for their own criminal procedures, and procedures vary from state to state. State and federal governments may not limit the protections guaranteed by the Constitution, but they may expand them.
An example of this principle may be seen with the so-called automobile exception to the Constitution's search-warrant requirement. Under the automobile exception, states may allow the warrantless search of an automobile, except for the trunk, if the police officer reasonably believes that the vehicle holds evidence of a crime. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that this exception is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment because drivers have a "reduced expectation of privacy" and because a vehicle is inherently mobile. This reduced expectation of privacy also allows police officers with PROBABLE CAUSE to search a car to inspect drivers' and passengers' belongings that are capable of concealing the object of the search, even if there is no proof that the driver and passenger were engaged in a common enterprise. Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 119 S. Ct. 1297, 143 L. Ed. 2d 408 (1999).
However, states are not required to adopt the automobile exception. The New Hampshire Supreme Court, for example, ruled that all warrantless searches are unreasonable except for a group of well-defined such searches, and this group does not include warrantless AUTOMOBILE SEARCHES (State v. Sterndale, 139 N.H. 445, 656 A.2d 409 ). Thus, in New Hampshire, a police officer may not base the warrantless search of a vehicle on the mere fact that the place to be searched is a vehicle. New Hampshire, therefore, provides expanded protections under the Fourth Amendment.
Conversely, a state may not allow the search of any vehicle without reasonable suspicion. A vehicle search that is conducted in the absence of reasonable suspicion would be an infringement of guaranteed Fourth Amendment protection, and a court would strike down such an infringement as unconstitutional. A state law may not diminish the scope of the automobile exception by authorizing a warrantless search of an entire vehicle following a traffic stop in which the driver is issued a citation for speeding. Although law enforcement may conduct a full vehicle search if the defendant is formally arrested, the issuance of a traffic citation does not justify the considerably greater intrusion of a full-fledged search. Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 119 S. Ct. 484, 142 L. Ed. 2d 492 (1998)
Criminal prosecutions officially begin with an arrest. However, even before the arrest, the law protects the defendant against unconstitutional police tactics. The Fourth Amendment protects persons against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. Generally, a SEARCH WARRANT is required before an officer may search a person or place, although police officers may lawfully prevent a criminal suspect from entering his or her home while they obtain a search warrant. Illinois v. McArthur, U.S. 326, 121 S. Ct. 946, 148 L. Ed. 2d 838 (2001).
Police officers need no justification under the Fourth Amendment to stop persons on the street and ask questions, and persons who are stopped for questioning are completely free to refuse to answer any such questions and to go about their business. But the Fourth Amendment
does prohibit police officers from detaining pedestrians and conducting any kind of search of their clothing without first having a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the pedestrians are engaged in criminal activity. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that reasonable suspicion is provided for a stop-and-frisk type of search when a pedestrian who, upon seeing police officers patrolling the streets in an area known for heavy narcotics trafficking, flees from the officers on foot. Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 120 S. Ct. 673, 145 L. Ed. 2d 570 (2000)
The warrant requirement is waived for many other searches and seizures as well, including a search incident to a lawful arrest; a seizure of items in plain view; a search to which the suspect consents; a search after a HOT PURSUIT; and a search under exigent or emergency circumstances. Nor does the Fourth Amendment require the police to obtain a warrant before seizing an automobile from a public place when they have probable cause to believe that the vehicle is forfeitable contraband. Florida v. White, 526 U.S. 559, 119 S. Ct. 1555, 143 L. Ed. 2d 748 (1999).
However, the Fourth Amendment does prohibit police use of a thermal-imaging device aimed at a private home from a public street to detect relative amounts of heat within the home. Such devices are typically employed to determine whether a suspect is using a high-intensity lamp to grow marijuana in his or her home. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the use of thermal-imaging devices constitutes a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth...