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Criminal Procedure-Probable Cause

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Criminal Procedure-Probable Cause
Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Main body
  3. Exceptions to Warrant Requirements
  4. Reference List

Introduction

Bloom & Brodin (2006) defines probable cause as the quantity of facts and circumstances that the police officer has established which allows him to reasonably conclude that the individual in question was involved in the crime hence warranting the individual’s arrest or that specific evidence related to a crime can be found in a particular location in case of a search. The information may be derived from reasonably trustworthy hearsay or the officers factual observation but and does not merely come from speculations and hunches. It is however considerably less than proof beyond reasonable doubt (Bloom & Brodin, 2006).

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Criminal procedures on the other hand are guidelines formulated to safe guard against indiscriminate application of criminal law and they govern the way in which suspected criminals are treated (Anonymous, 2010). The criminal procedures are generally designed to protect the constitutional rights of the suspected criminals through the entire process from the moment they are arrested until sentencing and appeals.

Main body

The American constitution outlines the criminal procedure in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth amendments. The fourth amendment covers the right to be free from unreasonable searches and warrants (Anonymous, 2010). According to this amendment, people have a right to be secure in their personal effects and private property and this right shall not be violated against by law enforcers. The fourth amendment further outlines that a warrant shall be issued only in situations where there is existence of probable cause, supported by oath the information should be adequately describe the specific location to be searched and the individuals or items to be confiscated (Anonymous, 2010).

The Fifth Amendment covers various criminal procedures and the general right to the due process while the sixth amendment outlines the procedure required at trial. The eighth amendment regulates punishment and sentencing.

The basic concepts of the fourth amendment are; prior justification of police action which requires the police to possess information that is adequate to constitute probable cause (Bloom & Brodin, 2006), a limited scope of the police action whereby despite the justification of the search by a probable cause, the search process should be confined within the limitations of time and space (Bloom & Brodin, 2006). The fourth amendment also requires the use of a warrant by police officers to conduct searches and arrest.

A warrant is an official document that mandates law enforcers to conduct a search in private premises or arrest. Search and arrest warrants are mandatory in some situations where as in others they are discretionary (Bloom & Brodin, 2006). This amendment further creates a provision for reasonable analysis where the government necessity for the search is weighed over the private intrusion (Bloom & Brodin, 2006).

Recently, two Minneapolis police officers were sued over a strip search that they conducted on the street on the complainant Ricardo Meek. Video evidence shows two officers conducting a strip and body cavity search on a city street (Chanen, 2010). The suspect was cited for being in possession of Marijuana and driving with a suspended license but was not arrested during the incidence (Chanen, 2010) The two police officer face disciplinary actions for the failure to notify their supervisor about the search (Chanen, 2010).

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Furthermore, police policies outline that body cavity searches should be conducted by medical practitioners while strip searches without arrest can be conducted only after obtaining a warrant. Otherwise the officers should first arrest the suspect and later conduct the search. Strip searches without arrest should only be conducted when there is probable cause that evidence or weapons existing will be destroyed or lost or to prevent imminent danger to the suspect (Chanen, 2010). The above case demonstrates possible violation of the fourth amendment that protects the rights of suspects and the general police policy hence punishable in a court of law.

Exceptions to Warrant Requirements

The Supreme Court creates a provision for exception of a search warrant requirement in specific incidences. A search warrant requirement may be exempted in case of a ‘hot pursuit’. This refers to a situation where the police officers are pursuing a felony suspect and have reason to believe that he has taken refuge in a particular location. This permits them to enter the premises to search him without a search warrant and while they are at it, the police officers can search the premises for weapons seized (Emmanuel, 2009). A warrant less search may also be conducted in situations where human life is at stake and the police are required to act swiftly to salvage the situation (Emmanuel, 2009).

In Brigham vs. Stuart, the police responded at 3 am to a loud party where fighting was taking place. The officers arrested several people for fighting. It was held that the warrant less entry was justified by the exigent circumstances (Emmanuel 2009). The police may also conduct a search without a warrant as long as they have probable cause to prevent against imminent destruction of evidence (Emmanuel, 2009).

In conclusion, law enforcers should ensure that they conduct searches and arrest according to the provisions by law so that their rights and those of the suspects are protected.

Reference List

Anonymous, (2010). Law encyclopedia: Criminal procedure. Answers corporation. Web.

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Bloom M. R., Brodin, S. M. (2006). Criminal procedure. The constitution and the police. N.Y: Aspen publishers online. Web.

Chanen, D. (2010). Mpls. Police sued over strip search on the street. Star tribune. Web.

Emmanuel, S. (2009). Criminal procedure. N.Y: Aspen Publisher

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