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There are a number of cases ruled by the Supreme Court of the United States of America that have had a great impact on the American Criminal Justice system. The impact on police procedure or the court systems in the America can be attributed to these landmark cases which reiterate the Bill of Rights. Most of these cases are appeals that have been sent to the Supreme Court by aggrieved parties, where a better interpretation of the Constitution is sought out, often mired by inconsistencies in understanding at both state and federal level. Consequently, the decisions established by the court often have far-reaching changes in their wake, targeting the procedure and conduct of the American justice system at various levels and in its various iterations.
The Mapp v. Ohio is a 1961 case, establishing the correct evidence gathering procedures in the United States, due to the landmark ruling which reiterated the citizen’sprotection under the Fourth Amendment from arbitrary searches and seizures by the criminal justice services extends to evidence collected in similar circumstances. On May 1957, Ms. Dollree Mapp, a worker at an unlicensed gambling was the subject of a police visit by officers tipped off anonymously; claiming Dollree Mapp was hosting Virgil Ogletree, a bombing suspect. Moreover, the tip also included claims that Mapp was hosting illegal betting slips and paraphernalia used in the California Gold numbers operation.
After consulting her attorney, Ms. Mapp denied the officers entry, after which they forced their way in, brandishing a piece of paper, said to be the house search warrant. However, the said paper was not produced in the Supreme Court later as evidence. According to Ms. Mapp, the arresting officers forcefully recovered if from her person. During her trial, the piece of paper was not produced in accordance with criminal justice procedure, with the state prosecutor failing to address the court’s requests for the same adequately.
While the police officers conducted their search for Ogletree in Mapp’s two-bedroom apartment, they first handcuffed Ms. Mapp, citing her as an obstruction to an ongoing investigation. The search’s target, Ogletree was later found hiding in the building’s basement, owned by a different tenant, other than Ms. Mapp, with the bombing charges against him were later dropped. Additionally, the police officers recovered gambling material suspected to be “California Gold” betting slips, a handgun and pornographic material.
On her arrest, Ms. Mapp was charged with possession of illegal gambling material, thisallegation later dropped. However, after Ms. Mapp’s refusal to testify against her former bosses in the illegal number’s rackets, she was charged with contravening the Ohio Revised Code’s Section 2905.34, a law then prohibiting the ownership of pornographic material, with a seven-year maximum sentence being handed out after she was found guilty (Casillas, Enns and Wohlfarth 2011).
In her appeal to the United States Supreme Court against the ruling, Mapp cited that her arrest lacked probable cause and therefore the evidence against her was illegally acquired by an officer with no reason to suspect her ownership of pornographic material. She additionally challenged the failure of the Cleveland police officers to produce a court warrant for her arrest, while asking for the 4th amendment to be incorporated in this case. In its ruling, Supreme Court justices ruled6-3 in her favor, revoking her jail sentence while establishing the use of Fourth Amendment provisions on the acquisition of evidence at the state level. As such, the landmark ruling Mapp v. Ohio established a precedent regarding the application of the exclusionary rule at the state level as establishedby precedents such as Weeks v. United States (1914) (Casillas, Enns and Wohlfarth 2011).
This case, Mapp v. Ohio has had a tremendous impact on America’s criminal justice system at the state level, mostly for the better, particularly since police conduct on searches was properly established in accordance with Fourth Amendment provisions regarding the legality of evidence acquired after the contravention of a defendant’s Constitutional rights (Casillas, Enns and Wohlfarth 2011).. As such, the ruling clearly repealed the previous laws by restating it that no evidence acquired illegally can be used in federal or state criminal law prosecutions.
The significance of Mapp v Ohio landmark ruling was the establishment of the exclusionary rule at the state level; hence protecting the citizen against charges resulting from evidence collected unconstitutionally, particularly in contravention the Bill of Rights. At the same time, the ruling unified state policing procedure, previously divided by some stats adopting the exclusionary rule, evidenced by the Supreme Court of California ruling in People v. Cahan (1955) (Dahl, 1957).Essentially, the ruling ensured defendants at the state level could not be incriminated by illegally obtained evidence, identified as “the fruit of a poisonous tree, ”in Silverthorne Lumber Co v United States (1920), a United States Supreme Court ruling protecting the citizenry from improper searches and seizures by federal government officials. As such, the conduct of criminal justice officials was limited by the Fourth Amendment, ensuring the use of proper procedure by policing agencies to which the arrest of offenders is often the primary consideration (Casillas, Enns and Wohlfarth 2011).
The second case which has had a great impact on the court system is the 1963 case, Gideon v. Wainwright. According to the case facts, on 1961, Gideon Earl Clarence, a Florida drifter was charged with the burglary of an entertainment sport after police received a tip-offfrom an individual claiming to witness his alleged offenses. Consequently, he was charged with breaking and entering, a felony according to California state laws.
A poor man, Mr. Gideon appealed to the State of Florida Court alone since he lacked enough money to afford an attorney. However, his request for counsel was denied since California law only provided individuals charged with capital offenses with a defense attorney. Consequently, Gideon chose to represent himself, and despite a spirited defense, he was found guilty and convicted to five years. Despite petitioning the Florida Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, citing the court’s failure to provide counsel as unconstitutional, Gideon was turned down, after which he appealed his case to the United State Supreme Court on the same matter in a handwritten petition (Casillas, Enns and Wohlfarth 2011).
The Supreme Court hired the Services of Mr. Abe Fortas, who a prominent attorney was working with a top law firm in Washington DC, to come and represent Mr. Gideon. On March 18th in the year 1963, the Supreme Court reached a unanimous decision which was in favor of Mr. Gideon. The Supreme Court held that counsel should be offered to a defendant who lacks the means to acquire one due to his financial position personally. This ruling further overruled previous case law like Betts v. Brady a 1942 case under where the rules governing the provision of counsel were established. In Betts v. Brady the Fourth Amendment clause enforcing due process was not violated by the failure to provide counsel for a poor defendant, the court ruled, a notion overturned by the landmark ruling with the Supreme Court Justices voting unanimously (Kaplan 2015).
The above case has had a great influence and impact on the United States of America Judicial System. Previously, state courts were not required to provide legal counsel for defendants, many lacking legal expertise to adequately defend themselves against skilled prosecutors, as evidenced by Gideon’s attempts. In my opinion, the Supreme Court enforcing the provision of an attorney as a Due Process clause requirement is a step in the right direction towards the provision of a fair and inclusive justice system, an idea Kaplan reinforces (Kaplan 2015).
The immediate impact of the landmark ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright was a reduction in convictions, with many more people under trial being able to acquire a legal defense. Clearly, the impact of the ruling can be seen in Justice Black’s opinion on overruling Betts, stating “reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person hauled into court, too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him” (Kaplan 2015). As such, poor people, or individuals otherwise unable to hire an attorney and convicted could appeal the decision since due process dictating the right to a fair trial was established to be violated in instances where counsel is not provided (Kaplan 2015).
In the landmark ruling Katz v. United States, the Supreme Court sought to establish the legal interpretation of search and the right to privacy from technological intrusions. After his use of public pay phones to transmit gambling bets across states, Charles Katz was apprehended by the FBI, which had intercepted his dealings by electronically intercepting his calls. In an appeal against his conviction based on the recordings, Katz alleged the recordings had violated his right to privacy as provided by the Fourth Amendment. After the Court of Appeal sided with the FBI, the Supreme Court sought to answer constitutional questions on the extent of right to privacy even in public places. In its ruling, the Supreme Court held governmental electronic surveillance as a violation of privacy, with the wiretapping of a public telephone booth amounting to a search and seizure. Additionally, intrusion of a private conversation conducted with a “reasonable expectation of privacy” amounted to an unreasonable search.
In Katz v. United States, the Supreme Court ruling inferred certain actions conducted by an individual in a private conversation in a public space as means of safeguarding their privacy. In a 7-1 decision in favor of the plaintiff, the justices expounded on the constitutional guarantees to personal privacy from federal law enforcement agencies without a search warrant, arguing for the upholding of Fourth Amendment by both state and federal agencies.
In my opinion, the changes to policing procedure made by the Supreme Court ruling in Katz v. United States were beneficial in nature since governmental infringement of personal privacy was limited. In establishing personal privacy rights from technological intrusion by government agents without a court warrant, the United States Supreme Court developed further on the interpretations established in landmark cases such as Olmstead v. United States to further safeguard citizen rights from arbitrary searches in areas where an individual “has a reasonable expectation of privacy” under the Fourth Amendment (Casillas, Enns and Wohlfart 2011).
All the above cases have in one way, or the other had a great tremendous impact on the American justice system, particularly the interpretation of the law at federal and state level. Clearly, these rulings that have been made by the Supreme Court seem to interpret the law in a Constitutional manner, with the emphasis on the provision of the Bill of Rights and Due Process clauses being particularly adhered to. The Supreme Court, being top of the judicial hierarchy, is well poised to ensure the liberties of Americans are upheld in the face of differing opinions and interpretations at federal and state level, which at times has proved to be inadequate (Casillas et al., 2011).
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