Write a 1,300- to 1,650-word paper identifying and evaluating the constitutional safeguards provided by the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments to the United States Constitution as they apply to both adult and juvenile court proceedings. Discuss the impact that these safeguards (e.g., Right to Counsel, Miranda Warnings, speedy trial, the exclusionary rule, etc.) have on the day-to-day operation of adult and juvenile courts.
Include at least four peer-reviewed references.
Evaluation of Criminal Law Foundations
The U.S. Constitution contains a section on the Bill of Rights which is fundamental in limiting the power of the government and protecting individual freedoms through a system of checks and balances. The first ten amendments of the constitution touched on the Bill of Rights to address, among other things, constitutional safeguards during adult and juvenile court proceedings. The aim of this paper is to identify the constitutional safeguards presented in the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments as they apply to both adult and juvenile court proceedings and to discuss the impact that they have had on the day-to-day operations thereof. In truth, there are enough constitutional safeguards available as stipulated in the Constitution; the only problem is that very few people know their rights and what they mean, thus, they are often taken advantage of by those in power.
The 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates that people have the right to be secure in all aspects of their lives be it their houses or personal effects. Thus, it protect them against unreasonable searches and seizures. The amendment also forbids the issuance of warrants without probable cause, support by oath and specifications of the searchable places and seizable things or people. In this case, probable cause refers to the existence of facts and information that make a law enforcement officer believe that the suspect is guilty prior to the arrest. In the case of a juvenile offender, public officials do not need probable cause; they only need reasonable suspicion of a wrongdoing (Wunsch, 1995). In essence, the 4th amendment provides for the right to privacy and freedom from what would otherwise be considered random intrusions by the government.
One constitutional safeguard that the 4th amendment provides lies in the Bivens action. In the event that the right to privacy and freedom from random intrusions by the government is violated through unlawful searches and seizures and damages are inflicted, the affected individual can file a Bivens action against the law enforcement officers involved (Wunsch, 1995). Another constitutional safeguard provided by the 4th amendment is the exclusionary rule. Whether a juvenile offender or an adult, one is entitled to the right to privacy and freedom from random intrusions from the government (Wunsch, 1995). Therefore, the exclusionary rule stipulates that any evidence that is obtained and established to be in violation of the 4th amendment can be excluded from any court proceeding.
On the other hand, the 5th amendment provides five very important due-process constitutional safeguards, the first one being the provision of a grand jury for any capital crimes. According to the 5th amendment, unless a grand jury is presented and in the occasion that one is in active service in the militia or naval force during war or otherwise, no citizen can be made to answer for a capital or infamous crime. Secondly, the 5th amendment prohibits double jeopardy, which usually occurs after an acquittal in the first trial when a defendant is tried twice by the court for the same offence, prosecuted twice or subjected to multiple punishments for one offense.
The third constitutional safeguard from the 5th amendment is protection from self-incrimination, which occurs if the testimony to be given by a defendant may incriminate them. For instance, the Miranda right contains a safeguard for defendants against law enforcers that do not inform them of their rights during an arrest. Moreover, minors have a right to a phone call when in custody. In the event that these rights are not followed to the letter, the statements made by the suspects are inadmissible in a court of law as they are considered a violation of the 5th Amendment. Lastly, the Just Compensation Clause stipulates that on the occasion that the government takes private property for public use, the citizens affected are entitled to just compensation according to the market value.
The 6th amendment provides that any accused individual, juvenile or adult, has the right to an impartial jury, a speedy trial, and the right to be tried within the jurisdiction of the crime. Moreover, he/she has the right to be made aware of the accusation, to have access to confrontation by the witnesses against them and the right to counsel (Pagnanelli, 2007). The main constitutional safeguard provided by the 6th amendment is the right to a public and speedy trial. In the case that one cannot afford an attorney, they have the right to a state-appointed attorney. This provision safeguards the defendant or accused against stalled court proceedings and unfair jury selection to ensure impartiality in both juvenile and adult court proceedings.
The issue of constitutional safeguards has opened up debates and appeals across America regarding their role particularly in regards to juvenile offenders. Following appeals, the United States Supreme Court has had to make rulings allowing the inclusion of accused juvenile offenders in various court proceedings, and by extension, due-process rights (Pagnanelli, 2007). As mentioned earlier, some of these safeguards include the right to counsel, freedom self-incrimination and protection from double jeopardy. This inclusion has led to the embracement of the view that juvenile offenders ought not to be treated as adults (Pagnanelli, 2007). Consequently, programs that are unique to the juvenile court system are being researched on and soon, a very effective juvenile rehabilitation system will hopefully be established to help in protecting the public and enforcing justice on juvenile suspects in a fair and just manner.
An important impact that the constitutional safeguard against self-incrimination has had on the day-to-day operations of adult and juvenile court proceedings is the growing impartiality of the court systems. Because of it, there is the assurance that whether or not the defendant testifies during their trial, no effect will be exerted on the overall judgment. Moreover, despite being the defendant, suspects have the option of whether to testify or not. This has made the judges to stop relying of the testimony of one person or putting too much importance to the testimonies of certain persons at the expense of others.
Elsewhere, the Just Compensation Clause provided in the 5th amendment has made governments more careful when choosing to use a private property for public use. Without this safeguard for private property owners, many people would be left landless or simply watch a property they invested so much in being taken over by someone else with little or no compensation. Following the amendment, private owners are now able to receive compensation that reflects the market value of the property in case the government acquires their land for public use.
Meanwhile, for juveniles, the most crucial provisions are contained in the 4th Amendment which forces judges and prosecutors to pay more attention to their rights. However, this has not always been the case. In the late 90s, the judges in juvenile court proceedings have been found to institute court proceedings based on evidence that was mostly collected in a manner that constituted a violation of the 4th amendment (Ainsworth, 1996). Recently, though, judges and prosecutors alike have started paying more attention to the rights accorded to juvenile offenders just as they do in cases where adult offenders are facing similar charges. Additionally, due to their vulnerability, minors have an extra level of protection within their juvenile system, for example, the right to have their records sealed, protection from the death penalty and the right to hire a criminal defense attorney. Thus, the safeguards provided by the amendments have played a critical in promoting fairness and equality during juvenile court proceedings.
Lastly, the fundamental safeguard represented by the 6th Amendment, which is the right to a speedy and public trial, has resulted in an expedited process of sentencing. According to Saetveit (2016), the right to a speedy and public trial is actually applicable in the sentencing process. Moreover, there is now a stipulated consequence for the violation of the 6th Amendment. This is a very recent addition to the interpretation of the amendment by scholars, the Supreme Court, as well as state and federal courts (Saetveit, 2016; Roach, 1999). Through further interpretations of the amendments that focus on strictness of safeguards, a lot can be done to protect the rights of both juvenile and adult during court proceedings.
While every effort is made to inform and educate every citizen of hi/her rights especially those included in the Bill of Rights, there is still a large percentage of the population that remains uninformed. Similarly, many juvenile offenders are often taken advantage of because they do not fully understand their rights. Upon identifying the constitutional safeguards stipulated in the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments, one can easily acknowledge the fact that all offenders, both juvenile and adult, have been accorded just as much adequate rights under the U.S. constitution. It also goes without saying that the impact that the constitutional safeguards has had on the day-to-day operations of the adult and juvenile court proceedings has been very significant. Meanwhile, knowing one’s rights is an important step towards deriving benefits from these constitutional protections. Therefore, all educators, should strive to impart this knowledge on all members of society to ensure that fairness and equity always prevail during court proceedings.
Ainsworth, J. E. (1996). The court’s effectiveness in protecting the rights of juveniles in delinquency cases. Future Child, 6(3), 64-74.
Pagnanelli, E. (2007). Children as adults: The transfer of juveniles to adult courts and the potential impact of Roper v. Simmons. American Criminal Law Review, 44, 175-188.
Roach, K. (1999). Four models of the criminal process. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 89(2), 671-716.
Saetveit, K. (2016). Beyond Pollard: Applying the Sixth Amendment’s Speedy Trial Right to Sentencing. Stanford. Law Review, 68(2), 481-509.
Wunsch, E. J. (1995). Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment. Malicious Prosecution and Section 1983: Is There a Constitutional Violation Remediable under Section 1983?. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 85(4), 878-908.
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