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Category Archives: Constitutional Rights

U.S. Supreme Court Reaffirms Broad Protections of Double Jeopardy Clause

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars a defendant from being tried twice for the same offense. There has traditionally been a distinction between substantive and procedural dismissals in double jeopardy jurisprudence. Any dismissal based on the insufficiency of the prosecution’s case, even if the ruling was utterly misguided,… Read More »

U.S. Supreme Court Carves Out Exception to Fifth Amendment Protections

In the groundbreaking case of Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people in custody must be apprised of their right to remain silent, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Since the right against self-incrimination inherent in the Fifth Amendment is so crucial, the court reasoned that the only way to effectively… Read More »

The Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel During Sentencing

The U.S. Supreme Court has long interpreted the Sixth Amendment to embody a right to effective assistance of counsel, which includes the right to effective assistance during sentencing. There have been several important cases involving this right, including: Strickland v. Washington — To prevail on an ineffectiveness claim, petitioners/defendants must prove two things: 1) that… Read More »

Must Sentences Be Proportionate to Comply with the Eighth Amendment’s Prohibition Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

In Harmelin v. Michigan, the U.S. Supreme Court makes clear that there is no proportionality requirement for criminal sentences. Here are some important facts regarding this case: The petitioner, Harmelin, was convicted of possessing 672 grams of cocaine and sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison without the possibility of parole because he… Read More »

Recent Fourth Amendment Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court

The law regarding the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, is constantly changing. A warrant, which should be limited in scope and based on probable cause, is normally required to conduct a search of an individual’s person, home, papers and effects. However, there are several exceptions to this warrant requirement, including: Exigent circumstances,… Read More »

Understanding the Plain View Doctrine

The plain view doctrine is an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, which allows law enforcement to seize incriminating items that are in plain view. In California v. Ciraolo, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that the Fourth Amendment protections regarding search and seizure in the home have never been absolute. When police… Read More »

Sentence Enhancements: Who Should Decide?

Elements of a crime that trigger sentence enhancements — such as use of a firearm or endangering the public — are findings of fact that could affect the maximum sentence a person could receive if convicted. Many criminal defendants have questioned whether a judge should be allowed to make this finding based on a “preponderance… Read More »

Judge Dismisses Case, Double Jeopardy Bars Retrial

A trial judge in Michigan mistakenly imposed too high a burden of proof on prosecutors seeking to convict the prime suspect in an arson case — improperly dismissing the case against the criminal suspect. The judge required prosecutors to demonstrate that the house at issue in the investigation was a dwelling, even though such a… Read More »

Smartphone Searches, Not Too Smart

On the docket for the U.S. Supreme Court 2013 to 2014 session is a case about warrantless searches of smartphones. The decision could affect hundreds of suspects who were tried and convicted based on cellphone evidence obtained from photos, calendars, Internet browsing history and other personal data contained on cellphones. Warrantless searches are hardly a… Read More »

Miranda Rights: Silence Has its Limits

Prosecutors can legally use your silence during a pre-arrest interrogation as evidence of guilt during a forthcoming criminal trial, according the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Salinas v. Texas. “Popular misconception notwithstanding,” said Justice Alito, writing for the five-justice majority, “[the Constitution] does not establish an unqualified ‘right to remain silent.’” The facts of the… Read More »

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The Law Offices of E. Thomas Dunn, Jr.
1432 Edinger Avenue, Suite 240
Tustin, CA, 92780-6293 USA