With television shows like Law & Order and CSI, the entire nation now
knows everything that there is to know about criminal law. Right?
Shows such as these, as well as some music artists on the radio, seem to
enjoy spreading their criminal law knowledge to the public. Interestingly
enough, the information isn't quite accurate, and
we owe it to you to straighten things out. There are many misconceptions
floating around out there, and I'd like to address a few.
First. Society today has taken the meaning of
Miranda warnings and turned it into "If the police don't read me my rights,
my case should be dismissed." This is a false mischaracterization of your
Miranda rights. The United States Supreme Court decided in
Miranda that it was a constitutional right for any person in custody to be made
known of his/her rights before being interrogated. This meaning that before
officers are allowed to question criminal suspects, they must make clear
the suspects constitutional options before the officers can use any of
the statements to incriminate the suspect in court. This does NOT mean that if
Miranda warnings are not given the entire case falls apart. Simply, whatever a
criminal suspect says in response to an officer's questioning cannot
be used against him. But, that information gained can still be acted upon.
Because of the 5th and 6th amendments, a
Miranda warning is a procedural rule crafted by the Supreme Court to protect the
constitution, the judicial process, and, of course, the criminal suspect.
Second. There seems to be confusion regarding "pressing charges."
When a call is made to police or information is given to the State, you
no longer call the shots in the criminal matter. Simply put, if a crime
has occurred, the State has a responsibility to investigate and prosecute
regardless of your regretful confessions. Some District Attorney's
offices here in Texas have what is known as a "no drop policy."
That means that if a crime has indeed occurred, the case will not be dismissed.
Period. Despite how intensely the victim wishes the case would disappear.
All in all, it is easy to report a crime, but it is not as easy to take it back.
Third. Thanks to the one and only Jay-Z. He in fact had more than just
99 problems. The 4th amendment does protect individuals from unreasonable search and seizure,
but police officers do not ALWAYS need a warrant to search your belongings.
Society seems to fall in line with Jay-Z and think officers "gon
need a warrant for that." But the truth of the matter is that there
are other opportunities available to officers in order to conduct a search.
An obvious exception to the warrant requirement is when consent is given.
Although that consent must be voluntary. Another exception to the warrant
requirement is exigent circumstances. These include times such as hot
pursuit of a suspect, imminent destruction of evidence, emergencies to
eliminate harm, and incident to arrest in order to ensure safety. And
further, officers do not need a warrant to search a vehicle if they have
probable cause to believe that inside the vehicle is contraband or evidence
to a crime. Probable cause exists when reasonably trustworthy facts and
circumstances within the knowledge of the officer on scene would lead
a man of reasonable prudence to believe that the instrumentality of a
crime or evidence of a crime will be found. So in Jay-Z's situation,
if the appropriate facts had been available to the officer suggesting
evidence to a crime was present, the officer would have been allowed to
search the vehicle. Without a warrant.
Criminal law is constantly in the media whether via news or entertainment.
But, because a criminal charge is a very serious matter, it's important
to know what is reality and what is simply a common misconception.