Criminal Procedure Essay

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ROCHIN V. CALIFORNIA Summary of the Facts - On the morning of July 1, 1949, three deputy sheriffs from Los Angeles County believed that Rochin was selling narcotics. The sheriffs found Rochin's door open, and entered the premises in which he lived with his mother, common-law wife, and siblings. When the officers forced open the second floor door (Rochin's room) they found him sitting partially undressed on the side of the bed while his wife was lying beside him. On the night stand next to the bed the officers found two-capsules. When the officers asked Rochin about the capsules, he grabbed them and put them in his mouth. Subsequently, trying to prevent him from swallowing said capsules, a struggle ensued, but the officers were unable to extract the materials. Rochin was then handcuffed and taken to a hospital. Once there, under the direction of the officers, the medical personnel forced an emetic solution through a tube they inserted into Rochin's stomach -- all against his will. This solution produced vomiting and the two capsules were expressed and alter found to contain morphine (Rochin v California).

Rochin was convicted and sentenced to 60 days' jail time with the primary evidence against him being the two capsules. These capsules were admitted as evidence over the petitioner's objection, although the means of obtaining them was not at odds. Rochin then appealed his case based on the notion that his Constitutional Rights had been violated and the evidence should have been ruled inadmissible. The appellate Court, however, believed that the evidence was admissible, but did agree that the behavior of the officers was egregious. "Illegally obtained evidence is admissible on a criminal charge in this state" (People vs. Rochin, 1950).

Issue -The Supreme Court granted certiorari because there was a serious question about the limitations in which due process was followed and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments violated by law enforcement. Thus, did the police forcing Rochin to vomit violate his 5th Amendment right and due process guaranteed by the 14th Amendment?

Analysis and Evaluation - Rochin Questions -- (1-2) Did the actions of the Police shock the conscience of a reasonable person? Did it shock your conscious? Yes, the actions of law enforcement in this case were shocking for several reasons. First, while there may have been mitigating factors that led the police to believe that Rochin was dealing drugs, the very basis of the Constitutional guarantee of privacy and protection was violated by entering his home without a search warrant, further exaggerating this by forcibly entering his room on the second floor. They had no credible reason to even be in his home, and thus anything found without even probably cause should have been thrown out. Second, the idea of using physical force to try to cause Rochin to expel the capsules, then arresting him and taking him to a medical facility in which he was forced to vomit up the capsules borders on torture. In no case was there an indication that he was legally arrested. Third, even in the cultural conscious of the time, the rough and violent nature of the police and the medical community was shocking as a basic lack of understanding of constitutional protection. Thus, the actions of law enforcement violated any sort of due process by: lack of warrant, lack of proper arrest, and placing Rochin in a position in which he was physically and mentally abused without probably cause.

(3) Are "shocks to the conscience" offending the "community's sense of fair play and decency," etc. A matter of personal opinion or objective tests? Each community is different and has different standards. What society would consider permissible in 1850 would not fit with the 1950s, for instance. However, in the case of Rochin, the very idea of illegally entering his home, exuding both mental and physical torture, and obtaining evidence illegally are not cultural or community-based decisions -- they are part of the Constitutional guarantees and a system of checks and balances that prevents the United States from turning into a tyranny or police state. Regardless of the findings in the capsules -- the manner in which the substance was found was patently illegal. The point of due process is to guarantee fundamental rights and expectations -- otherwise, without these, law enforcement may be capricious.

(4) How did Justice Frankfurter define and defend the fundamental fairness doctrine? In Rochin, Justice Frankfurter applied the fundamental fairness doctrine by delineating the general fairness of the case using the Bill of Rights as primary source in which either the Constitution was or was not followed. Fundamental fairness, according to Frankfurter, asks if it is reasonable that society would view what happened to Rochin as proper and if fundamentally the manner in which he was treated was improper -- in fact so ingrained in the basis of American society that what happened violated the nature of an "implicit" standard of legal and governmental behavior (Samaha, p. 38).

(5) Q4- How did Justice Black define and defend the incorporation doctrine? Black found that the law must be faithful in its adherence to the Bill of Rights because it is a fundamental protection of civil liberty. Essentially, Black was stating that ideas of culture and society may change over time, but that there are certainly fundamental ideas that do not… just because something offends or does not offend a state law at a specific time, without allowing for the Bill of Rights to be incorporated into state law based on individual rights, the nature of the Constitution would be imperiled (Samaha, p. 38).

Recommendations - In American Constitutional process, American Courts have applied portions of the Bill of Rights to state governments and state constitutions. Prior to 1925, for instance, the Bill of Rights was said to apply only to the Federal system; however under the incorporation doctrine, most of the provisos of the Bill of Rights also applied to state and local governments. The very notion is central to the idea that the Constitution applies to the entire government of the United States, that states may not selectively decide to igrnore certain portions. For example, the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure was decided to be incorporate in 1949 (Wolf v Colorado), so it stands to reason that Justice Black would define the use of the Bill of Rights as fundamental in Rochin (See: (Wolf v. Colorado, 1949). Thus, the Constitution, while a growing document, should have relevance that is neither time nor location based. The equal protection clause can be found in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. It simply states that, "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States...nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law" (Hudson, 2002).

Case 2 -- Wyoming v Houghton Summary of the Facts -- Summary of the Facts - A vehicle was stopped by a police officer for a broken brake light and the driver was observed to have a syringe in his front pocket. The driver admitted that he used it to "shoot drugs," and as soon as backup arrived the passengers were ordered to leave the car. One of the people in the car gave a false name, but while looking through her purse, the officer found her driver's license and thus her correct name. Continuing this search, the officer found a syringe which included methamphetamine. Upon examining the woman, fresh needle marks were observed and the person was arrested. Houghton, the person's real name, wanted the purse search suppressed, but the trial court convicted her. When appealed, the Wyoming Supreme Court reversed because the police lacked probably because to search her purse based on the driver's possession of a syringe (Wyoming v. Houghton, 1999).

Issue - What was the probable cause to search the passengers who, in effect, were not violating any law (e.g. they did not own the car with the faulty light nor was anything illegal observed on their persons)?

Analysis and Evaluation -- (1) The Court reversed the Wyoming Court's reversal saying that if there is not a specific example in the Constitution then an additional evaluation must be made. Because it was reasonable that something was amiss, the officer had the right to search the purse and it thus was legal based on a "balancing of relative interests" and reasonable that someone was hiding contraband. (2) The rule was applied to the purse because under a previous 1925 case there was probable cause that there was additional contraband within the vehicle itself (Carrol v U.S.) then permitted searches of all containers. (3) Justice Stevens dissented believing that precedent did not exist because there was no presumption that anyone in the vehicle was holding illegal materials. Since Houghton did not appear to be doing anything illegal, the purse should not have been searched. (4) Justice Breyer argued that searches of purses, wallets or other materials should be…[continue]

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