The duties of police officers center on enforcing laws, detecting and deterring criminal activity, arresting suspects, and maintaining the public’s safety, peace and order. To accomplish these duties and responsibilities officers are given significant power and authority.
Before being allowed to exercise police powers, persons desiring to become police officers must first complete a basic training course. In training, necessary skills to safely and effectively perform the job’s duties are learned and training to enhance skills, and for specific assignments, will continue throughout an officer’s career. However, training alone does not automatically authorize one to exercise police powers. After being trained, and before being given a badge and gun, and allowed to go out and exercise full police powers, all officers must first take an oath of office.
The wording of oaths taken by police officers, and other public officials, may vary slightly from state to state. However, they are all simple and straightforward. The affiant solemnly swears to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, the constitutions of their respective States, and to perform their duties with fidelity. The oath police officers in Utah swear to is found in Article IV, Section 10, of the Utah Constitution and reads: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State, and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.”
When training is presented about procedures to prevent violating Constitutional rights, or about court decisions that affect police procedures, it seems to be assumed that officers will remember, from school, all they need to know about the Constitution; its history, structure and content.
Police officers should seriously consider the oath that they take. It’s short, can easily be memorized and because it has so much meaning, it probably should be. The oath is like a contract with the public and could be used against an officer if he or she fails to do what the oath requires. In return, officers who honor their oath will receive greater respect and public support and minimize the chance of complaints being made against them.
The oath an officer takes groups all of the things an officer may be required to do during a career as “duties of the office.” It would be impractical to think that each and every expected police officer duty and responsibility would be included. However, the specific duty of supporting, obeying and defending the Constitution of the United States and their State, is specifically included in the oath. This seems to indicate that supporting, obeying and defending the Constitution is as important a duty, if not more so, than any of the others police officers are expected to perform.
Considering this may cause one to wonder why officers are not given more training about the Constitution that they swear to “support, obey and defend.” In basic training procedures are taught to prevent officers from violating a person’s Constitutional rights. For example, conducting a “Terry” frisk to check a person for weapons without subjecting them to an unreasonable search and seizure, and issuing a person the “Miranda Warning,” before conducting a custodial interrogation; to prevent confessions and testimony from later being suppressed in court.
After basic training, legal updates are occasionally given to update officers about Court decisions that affect police procedures, which come as a result of a complaint that current procedures and practices had resulted in a violation of a person’s Constitutional rights. However, little more constitutional training is ever done.
When training is presented about procedures to prevent violating Constitutional rights, or about court decisions that affect police procedures, it seems to be assumed that officers will remember, from school, all they need to know about the Constitution; its history, structure and content.
While most officers might remember basic information about the Constitution, such as it starts with, “We the People,” and that it talks about freedom of speech, religion, the press, the right to bear arms and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, most will not remember where those freedoms and rights are discussed in the Constitution. In a legal update class where the instructor discusses a court decision, that affects police procedure, that was made based on a complaint by a “John Doe” that his “Forth, Fifth, or Sixth” amendment rights had been violated, it is doubtful that most officers would remember or know what each of those amendments say.
It seems reasonable to expect that for a police officer to fully meet the expectations of their oath of office that they have a sound, working knowledge of the Constitution, its history, structure and most importantly, its content. The best way a police officer can “support, obey and defend the Constitution” is by knowing what it says, operating in an ethical manner and following procedures that respect and do not violate people’s rights, and by defending the rights of “all,” especially in situations where a person’s actions and offenses make them seem unworthy of Constitutional rights and protections, and protecting them seems difficult and distasteful.
With this in mind, the following article was written to refresh peace officers and other law enforcement personnel’s knowledge about “The United States Constitution.” I do not profess to be a historian or Constitutional scholar and the article only contains basic information I feel all law enforcement personnel should know. I suspect that for most the information provided will be a reminder of what you already have previously learned and know. I hope however, that the article will teach all readers something about the Constitution and help to keep the Constitutional knowledge you already have in the forefront of your minds, especially officers who have sworn to “support, obey and defend” it.
A Brief Summary of Early American History
Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in August 1492 and a member of his crew first spotted land in the Americas, the Bahaman island now known as San Salvador, in October 1492. While Columbus never actually explored the North American continent, he is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas.
After Columbus discovered the New World, many European explorers followed and lands in the Americas were claimed for different European nations. Exploration didn’t only occur along the East Coast lines of the Americas, but was occurring in the west as well. As early as 1532, Spanish explorers, traveling north through Mexico, searching for lost cities of gold, explored what is now the American Southwest. And, in 1579, Francis Drake, who was sailing on an around the world voyage, claimed the lands of California for England
Some early American settlements include the establishment, in May 1607, of Jamestown, VA, the first English settlement in the United States, the Dutch settlement of Albany, NY, in September 1609 and the Pilgrim settlement of Plymouth, MA, in December 1620.
From the time lands in the New World were first claimed as territories of the different European nations, and as colonies were established, control was disputed and fought for between the different European nations as well as with the Native American Indians. Sometimes the disputes were settled diplomatically and peacefully. Other times control was battled for between armies.
By 1732, 13 distinct areas of North America had been established and were recognized as colonies of the British Empire. The colonies included (listed in the order they were established): Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
In 1754 a war between British and French colonists, who were allied with Native American Indians, began. The war was fought mostly for control the American Midwest. Both sides were also supported by troops from Europe. In 1763 the war, which is known as the French and Indian War, ended. The war ended with the signing of a peace treaty the ceded control of Canada and the American Midwest to the British. The victory also strengthened British control over all of North America.
With the end of the French and Indian War, in 1763, approximately 270 years after Columbus discovered the Americas, and settlement of the New World began, tensions that had been brewing between the colonies and England began to increase. It might be said that the “slow moving train” toward American independence began to pick up speed, and the war for independence would soon begin.
No single event is credited as causing the American Revolutionary War but it basically began over disagreement of how England treated the colonies and the way the colonies felt that they should be treated. The impositions of unfair taxes, being governed by a Parliament overseas without representation there, restrictions placed on westward colonization, and orders that the colonists should house and feed British troops were some of the issues that caused tensions to rise. In 1774 the colonists petitioned King George for relief, but their pleas were ignored and colonial resistance was seen as rebellion.
On April 19, 1775, American militiamen engaged British troops who were marching to Concord, MA, where colonists were said to have military supplies stored. Eight of the militiamen perished but the British suffered over 270 casualties. This battle is said to be the first of the American Revolution and the war had begun.
After the Revolutionary War began, George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. The formal Declaration of Independence was approved and signed on July 4, 1776; and to legally establish the United States as a confederation of sovereign states, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were drafted and approved as the United States first constitution.
The British were finally defeated in October 1781 and formally abandoned any claim to the United States by signing the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
The Articles of Confederation, adopted during the Revolutionary War, served the purpose of uniting the colonies together as the United States of America, an independent nation. However, after independence was won, flaws in the Articles became apparent. The basic problem was that the Articles of Confederation did not encourage a strong, unified United States and federal government, but seemed more to favor the States acting as united, but independent, nations.
In 1787 a Constitutional Convention was called to revise the Articles of Confederation. The convention began on May 25,
1787, in Philadelphia, PA, with delegates from 12 of the 13 states participating. Shortly after the convention began it was decided that a revision of the Articles wasn’t what was needed, but that a new Constitution, that would establish an entirely new government for the United States, was. Work began and on September 17, 1787, the convention closed with the new Constitution of the United States ready to go to the States for ratification.
A Brief Summary of the Development, Content, and Facts about the Constitution
The Constitution that we know today was originally drafted during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Alexander Hamilton proposed holding a constitutional convention in 1786 and the Congress, established under the Articles of Confederation, endorsed the idea in February 1787.
The Convention convened on May 25, 1787, in Philadelphia,
PA. Delegates from 12 of the 13 original states attended. Rhode Island didn’t send delegates, as the government in Rhode Island was more in favor of preserving state rights than establishing a strong federal government. Once the Convention began, it was quickly realized that a revision of the Articles of Confederation wasn’t what was needed, but writing a new constitution, that would establish an entirely new government, was.
The Convention lasted through the summer of 1787. Different committees met during the Convention to discuss and decide what would be included in the new Constitution. The drafts of their work were given to the Committee of Style and Arrangement in early September 1787, and their final draft of the new Constitution was presented to the delegates on September 12. (While James Madison, who had significant influence over Constitution’s content, is sometimes known as, “ The Father of the Constitution;” lesser known, Gouverneur Morris, who was originally from New York City, but represented Pennsylvania at the Convention, actually headed the Committee of Style and Arrangement and is credited with authoring much of the Constitution, including the Preamble. He actually put “pen to paper” and has been called the “Penman of the Constitution.”)
On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention ended. The Constitution they had written was signed by 39 of the 42 delegates present and the new United States Constitution was sent to the states for ratification.
Ratification by two-thirds, or nine of the original 13 states was necessary for the Constitution to become law and go into effect. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution on, December 7, 1787. New Hampshire was the ninth; making the Constitution effective, on June 21, 1788 and Rhode Island ratified the Constitution on May 29, 1790, the last of the original 13 states to do so.
The Constitution we know today consists of three distinct sections: The Preamble, The Articles, and the Amendments. However, the original document only contained the Preamble and the Articles.
The majority of the Framers of the Constitution did not feel it was necessary to include a Bill of Rights in the Constitution. They felt that the federal government couldn’t restrict “unalienable rights” with which men are “endowed by their Creator.”
The last states to ratify the constitution would not agree to do so until the inclusion of a Bill of Rights was promised. So, James Madison proposed a Bill of Rights, that listed the individual freedoms and protections found in the first ten constitutional amendments today, in the House of Representatives, in June of 1789. Congress approved 12 proposed amendments in September of 1789, which were sent to the states for ratification.
Ten of the 12 proposed amendments were eventually ratified. Collectively known as the “Bill of Rights,” they were added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791
Since then 17 more amendments have been added, bring the total number of constitutional amendments to 27. The last was added in 1992.
In the Preamble, the first stated purpose of the Constitution is “to form a more perfect Union.” It doesn’t say “perfect” but strives to create a “more perfect” nation. It seems that it has succeeded in this purpose. Unified together by the Constitution and led by the strong central government it created; and while other nations have failed, the United States have endured many challenges, including a civil war, which they have faced.
The United States Constitution, protected by American citizens and public officials who have sworn to “ support, obey and defend” it, has been in effect for nearly 225 years; making it the oldest, and longest lasting, constitution or charter of any nation on earth today.
The Preamble “Preamble,” is defined as an “introductory explanation.”
The Preamble to the Constitution is its first part and is included in its entirety below. It simply states, in one sentence:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Constitution’s preamble does exactly what the definition says it should do and explains its reasons and purposes. It does not make any law, or guarantee any right or protection, but rather states the “why” and “purposes” of the Constitution. As I read and understand the Preamble, six specific reasons for, and purposes of, the Constitution can be identified.
The first reason was, “to form a more perfect Union,” than the Union that had been formed under the Articles of Confederation.
The second purpose, to “establish Justice,” I believe, means the enacting of just laws to protect citizen’s rights and fairly prosecute offenders.
The third stated purpose, “insure domestic Tranquility” means to prevent strife and encourage fair trade between the states, as well as promote mutual respect for the laws of each state.
The fourth purpose, “provide for the common defence” means to protect the country from outside attack.
The fifth, purpose, “promote the general Welfare” I believe, means to establish a Constitution and government that would benefit the people, rather than be to their detriment.
And finally, the sixth purpose, “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” means that the Framers of the Constitution wanted it to endure and provide benefit for future generations yet to come.
There are seven Articles in the constitution, each Article divided into differing numbers of sections. The Articles establish a government; divided into “three branches” that balance and check each other to prevent any one from having absolute or more power than the others. They address concerns of the states and the United States as a whole, and establish the means of making future modifications and amendments to the Constitution and ratification of the same. Brief descriptions of the purpose and content of each of the seven Articles follow.
Article One establishes the first of the three branches of the government; the Legislature, called the Congress, is divided into two parts, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each state has an equal number of Senators, two, and the number of Representatives, for each state, is determined by the state’s population. Qualifications for Senator and Representative are listed as well as terms of office.
The Article also establishes that the states can determine their own method for electing members of congress, that Congress will be paid, must meet at least once a year, and that members cannot hold other public office while serving in the House or Senate.
It also details how bills become laws, lists the specific powers and limitations of congress, and prohibits states from doing certain things; including, minting their own money, declaring war, and taxing goods from other states.
Article Two establishes the second of three branches of the government; the Executive. It consists of a President and Vice President, the President to be elected by the Electoral College (as well as the Vice President, but this would later change). Qualifications for office are listed, including the requirement that the President be a natural-born citizen of the United States. Terms of office are set and the President is to be paid, but the salary paid cannot change for the President, in office, when the change is made.
Powers of the President include being commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He has a cabinet to assist him, can pardon criminals, make treaties and pick judges and other government members (with the approval of the Senate).
The President’s duties include being required to give a State of the Union address, make suggestions to Congress, act as Head of State and insure that all the laws of the United States are carried out and enforced.
The manner of removing the President, by impeachment, is discussed.
Article Three establishes the third of the three branches of the government; the Judicial. The Supreme Court is established and is the highest court in the land. Most court judges’ terms are for “life” as long as they are on “good behavior” and judges are to be paid.
Types of cases heard in federal courts are established, including the types of cases over which the Supreme Court will have original jurisdiction, other cases heard by the Supreme Court or appeals. Trial by jury in criminal court is guaranteed.
The crime of “treason” is defined.
Article Four deals with the states. It establishes that the laws of one state will be honored in the others. Criminals cannot flee to other states to avoid prosecution for crimes committed in another, but if captured in another state will be returned to where they are wanted.
The manner of dealing with fugitive slaves is discussed but no longer applies as slavery was abolished by constitutional amendment.
The manner for new states to be admitted to the Union is established and control of federal lands discussed.
The Article also establishes that each state must have a “republican” form of government and that the federal government will protect the states from invasion.
Article Five deals with the manner in which the Constitution can be amended or changed.
Article Six deals with the United States in general. The
Article establishes that debts and contracts of the United States incurred and made under the Articles of Confederation would remain the responsibility of the United States under the new Constitution.
The Constitution is established as the “supreme” law of the land in the United States.
And, the requirement is set that government officials (including police officers) must swear in an oath to support the United States Constitution, before taking office. It is important for officers to note that the requirement to swear to their oath is made law by the United States Constitution.
Finally, Article Seven describes that to go into effect, the new Constitution of the United States would have to first be ratified by nine of the original 13 states.
Since the Constitution first went into effect, in 1788, the wording in some of the Articles has been changed due to the addition of new constitutional amendments. However, no additional Articles have ever been added.
The Framers of the Constitution realized that over time changes to the Constitution would become necessary. The addition of a Bill of Rights (which would become the first 10 constitutional amendments) was promised even before some of the original 13 states would ratify the Constitution in its original form.
The method for amending the Constitution was established in the Constitution’s Fifth Article. There are two methods, but only the first discussed here has ever been used.
First, two-thirds of both houses of congress must pass a bill that proposes a new amendment. Once passed by both houses it is sent to the states where three-fourths must ratify the proposed amendment for it to be added to the Constitution.
Even though the manner to amend the Constitution is clearly established, amending the Constitution is only done after much serious consideration, debate and hard-fought battles between proponents and opponents of proposed amendments. There are amendments that have made it through congress but never ratified by the states, such as the proposed “Equal Rights Amendment.” Many other proposed amendments, such as a “balanced budget” amendment and an amendment to “define marriage” have never made it past congress.
The Constitution today includes 27 amendments. A brief description of all follows. Those that most affect law enforcement
Regardless of the manner of state ratification a proposed amendment requires, three-fourths of the states must ratify the proposed amendment for it to become law and added to the Constitution.
Second, two-thirds of the states’ legislators can call for a constitutional convention to propose new amendments. Any amendments approved in a convention must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Proposed amendments that are sent to the states for ratification must be approved by the states’ legislatures or in a state convention held to approve or reject the proposal. The latter manner has only been used once, when the 21st Amendment was proposed to repeal the 18th Amendment (prohibition on alcohol), the only constitutional amendment that has ever been repealed.
Regardless of the manner of state ratification a proposed amendment requires, three-fourths of the states must ratify the procedures and operations are highlighted in red lettering.
The 1st Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech, and the press, the right for people to peacefully assemble and to air grievances against the government.
The 2nd Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms. Laws affecting gun ownership and “carry” are controversial and constantly challenged regarding their constitutionality.
The 3rd Amendment protects homeowners from being forced to house and feed members of the armed forces.
The 4th Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires that searches and seizures be done with
a warrant issued, based on probable cause. This amendment significantly affects police procedures as court challenges are often made that evidence may have been found or seized in a manner that violates 4th Amendment protections.
The 5th Amendment protects against persons being held without being charged. It also guarantees due process before a person can be deprived of life, liberty or property; protects against, double jeopardy, the taking of private property for public use without compensation and insures that a person cannot be forced to be a witness against their self. This amendment also significantly affects police procedure; for example, the need to have charges against an arrestee screened and a warrant issued within 72 hours of the arrest and advising a person of their rights, if applicable, to insure “due process” is given.
The 6th Amendment guarantees the right to a speedy trial, by jury, the right of the accused to be represented by counsel and to confront witnesses against them. This amendment is important for law enforcement to know. Because of Supreme Court decisions, a person must be advised of some of the rights included here, and in the 5th Amendment, before a custodial interview is conducted.
The 7th Amendment guarantees a jury trial in civil cases heard in Federal Court.
The 8th Amendment is also important to justice administration, mostly post arrest and conviction, as it prohibits the imposition of excessive bail, fines and the infliction of cruel and unusual punishments.
The 9th Amendment says that people may have rights not listed in the Constitution and that just because they are not listed does not mean they cannot be violated. The fact that many of the Framers of the Constitution believed this is one of the reasons they were against adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution.
The 10th Amendment basically says that powers not given to the federal government, by the Constitution, belong to the states.
The 11th Amendment attempts to more clearly define which cases the United States Supreme Court will be the first court to “hear” or have “original jurisdiction” over.
The 12th Amendment amends the 2nd Article of the Constitution. Originally the Electoral College chose the President And Vice President based on the number of votes won, the highest being the President and second being Vice President. Since the 12th Amendment was ratified, in 1804, the President, and chosen running mate, run a cooperative campaign. The 12th Amendment also specifies that the Vice President must meet the requirements to be President.
The 13th Amendment abolishes and prohibits slavery in the United States.
The 14th Amendment is important to law enforcement as it reinforces the 5th Amendment right of due process, and also says that state laws cannot prevent citizens of the state from enjoying rights granted to all citizens of the United States.
The amendment also deals with issues that arose at the end of the Civil War, including the counting of slaves in the census; debts incurred by Confederate states, and included measures to encourage loyalty to the United States by those who had supported the Confederate States during the war.
The 15th Amendment prevents the right to vote from being denied because of race or color.
The 16th Amendment authorizes the United States to collect income taxes.
The 17th Amendment amends the Constitution’s 1st Article. Per the 1st Article, Senators were originally chosen by state legislatures, but the amendment changed their selection to be by a vote of the people.
The 18th Amendment prohibited the sale or manufacture of alcohol in the United States. The amendment was later repealed (by the 21st Amendment) and is the only amendment ever repealed.
The 19th Amendment prevents the right to vote from being denied because of gender. In simple language, it gave women the right to vote that had previously been denied.
The 20th Amendment set new start times for the terms of President and Congress and clarifies how it will be handled if an elected President dies before being sworn into office.
The 21st Amendment repeals the 18th Amendment’s prohibition on alcohol.
The 22nd Amendment establishes that the President can only hold office for two, four-year, terms, and that no President can hold the office for more than 10 years. This means that if the Vice President had to assume the Presidency during the President’s first two years in office, because of death or other cause, he could only run for one additional term. But, if the Presidency was assumed after the President’s second full year in office, the Vice President could run for two additional terms.
The 23rd Amendment granted Washington D.C. to have three “electors” to vote in presidential elections.
The 24th Amendment prohibits tax from being charged or collected to allow people the right to vote.
The 25th Amendment establishes succession in the Presidency,
and details how it will be handled if a President becomes unable to fulfill the duties of the Office because of disability.
The 26th Amendment made the legal voting age to be 18 years old.
And finally, The 27th Amendment says that if Congress legislates a pay raise for themselves, the raise cannot become effective until after the next election.
Some Important Cases, Involving Constitutional Challenges, That Affect Police Procedures
It is important for police officers to know as much as they can about the Constitution and citizen rights that it grants and protects. Police actions, which are challenged as violations of constitutionally protected rights, can have significant effect on police procedures, sometimes positive and sometimes negative.
Police can be subjected to both civil and criminal prosecution for violating a person’s rights. While in some cases courts can find an officer to be immune from prosecution; if an officer’s actions repeat actions, that the courts have already determined to be unconstitutional, then the immunity protection may not be available.
A brief examination of three cases, ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court, follow:
The first, Terry v. Ohio, sustains the police procedure, for officer safety, of officers being able to conduct a quick “frisk for weapons” of persons they encounter and believe to be armed.
The second, Miranda v. Arizona, established the police procedure of having to advise suspects of their rights, contained in the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution, prior to conducting custodial interrogations.
The third is important to officers who work in, or closely with schools, as Granite School District Police officers do. In T.L.O. v. New Jersey, the standard for school
officials to search students for contraband is set at “reasonable suspicion.”
Terry v. Ohio
In October 1963, a “seasoned” Cleveland, OH, police officer, observed J. Terry and R. Chilton standing on a street corner in downtown Cleveland. The two engaged in behavior that the officer believed to be “casing” a store for a “stick up.” A third man “Katz” joined Terry and Chilton for a short time and then left. The officer then followed Terry and Chilton to where they met Katz. The officer then confronted the three men and asked their names. The officer only received a “mumbled” response and he then turned Terry around and “patted” his outer clothing for weapons. Chilton and Katz were also “patted” down.
Terry was found to be in possession of a revolver as was Chilton. Katz was unarmed. Terry and Chilton were charged with carrying concealed weapons. In court, Terry and Chilton asked that the evidence be suppressed, based on the allegation that the search and seizure had been in violation of their 4th Amendment rights.
The prosecution argued that the search was a legal search, “incident to arrest,” which the court rejected. But, the Court did believe that Terry and Chilton had been acting suspiciously, which warranted the officer questioning their actions, and believed that for his safety, believing that Terry and Chilton might be armed, was justified in patting their outer clothing for weapons. Terry and Chilton were convicted.
The appellate court upheld the conviction, and the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed the case, ruling that “no substantial constitutional question” was involved.
The case went to the US Supreme Court and in 1968, after a thorough examination of the case, “held that the Fourth Amendment
prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him without probable cause to arrest, if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime and has a reasonable belief that the person “may be armed and presently dangerous.” (392 U.S. 1, at 30.)”
Based on this decision, as long as the criteria described in the decision are met, the Supreme Court allows for officers to legally stop and frisk a person a person’s outer clothing for weapons, which allows for greater officer safety. These “frisks” are now commonly referred to as ‘Terry” frisks or stops.
Miranda v. Arizona
In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for the kidnap and rape of a 17-year-old girl. After being questioned by police for about 2 hours, Miranda signed a typed confession that contained language indicating his confession was voluntary, without coercion or any promise; that he understood his legal rights and that it could be used against him. Miranda was convicted and he was sent to prison.
During trial, Miranda’s attorney argued that his confession wasn’t truly voluntary and should be suppressed, as Miranda hadn’t been advised of rights contained in the 5th and 6th Amendments; including that he had the right to remain silent, and that he had a right to have legal counsel. The trial court rejected the argument, as did the Arizona Supreme Court.
The US Supreme Court heard the case in 1966 and after careful review, decided in favor of Miranda and overturned his conviction. The Supreme Court “held that both inculpatory and exculpatory statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against selfincrimination prior to questioning by police, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them.”
This decision obviously influenced police procedure as today officers routinely advise persons of their “Miranda Rights” before questioning. Officers know that if a person reasonably believes they are in police custody and questions are going to be asked; then the warning must be given.
On a side note, Miranda was re-tried in 1967 and convicted, without his confession, but based on other evidence and the testimony of witnesses. He was paroled from prison in 1972 and was able to make a “modest living” by personally autographing officers’ “Miranda cards.” He was stabbed to death during an argument in a bar in 1976.
T. L. O. (TLO) v. New Jersey
Before looking at this case, a little explanatory information is warranted. Government officials, for the purposes of this article, those employed in public schools, are expected to observe and not violate people’s rights, just like police officers. However, if a government official, such as a public school administrator, has reason to conduct a search of a student, their locker, or other belongings, for contraband, the standard to justify the search has been set lower than the “probable cause” standard that police officers must observe. School officials must have “reasonable suspicion” that contraband will be found.
Police officers cannot use school officials as their agents to conduct searches when they do not have sufficient probable cause to conduct a search. However, it is not inappropriate for officers to train school officials about the standard necessary for school officials to conduct searches. By having this knowledge, before a situation arises that would warrant a search, school officials can quickly and legally recover contraband that has the potential of harming students. Contraband, legally recovered by school officials, can be turned over to police as evidence of criminal activity.
There is some discussion and differing opinions from courts regarding whether police officers employed by school districts own police departments, or from outside agencies and assigned as a school’s resource officer, are school officials. If they are, can they observe the same “reasonable suspicion” standard afforded to other school officials when making decisions regarding searches? A recent Washington state court decision regarding this matter, State
v. Meneese, indicates that courts will carefully scrutinize whether an officer’s search is to maintain order and discipline in the school or to find evidence of criminal activity. If it is to find evidence of a crime the “probable cause” standard applies.
In TLO v. New Jersey (TLO are the initials of the juvenile involved in this case), a 1980 case, TLO and another juvenile classmate were caught smoking in a restroom in their high school. The teacher, who caught the girls, took them to the school office. They met with a vice principal there who questioned them about smoking. TLO’s classmate admitted smoking, but TLO claimed that she had not been and that she had never smoked in her life.
Because of her denial, and suspecting that she was lying, the vice principal searched TLO’s purse. Cigarettes were found in TLO’s purse, as was evidence of drug use and distribution. TLO’s mother was called and she drove TLO to the police station.
TLO was charged as a juvenile for the drug possession, but she fought the search claiming that it violated her 4th Amendment rights. The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed with TLO.
However, the US Supreme Court reviewed the case on certiorari, which means a higher court (in this case the US Supreme Court) sends an order to a lower court (in this case the New Jersey Supreme Court) to send the case to them for review.
After careful review of the case the US Supreme Court overturned the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling and said the search was reasonable and not a violation of TLO’s 4th Amendment rights. They determined that the “reasonable suspicion” search standard, established by the New Jersey school district, balanced a student’s rights and expectation of privacy with the school’s need to maintain order and discipline. The Supreme Court also said that the states “have a duty to provide a safe school environment.
For further, more detailed information, regarding these cases, visit the following websites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_v._Ohio