The court practice of the United States of America demonstrates that the First, the Fourth, the Eight and the Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution are the most frequently invoked constitutional provisions in the country. Procedural violations of these Amendments are effective tools in the hands of skillful criminal defense attorneys. Analyzing the court practice is the only way to understand viewpoints of the judiciary on these sensitive topics, and to avoid perpetrating procedural mistakes in the future.
This paper seeks to analyze the most landmark cases connected with the alleged violations of the First, the Fourth, the Eight and the Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and to understand how the court practice shaped the legal interpretation of these rights.
The First Amendment
Adopted in 1791, the First Amendment to the United Constitution banned the enactment of any law, which attempts to regulate religion, abridge freedom of speech, limiting freedom of press or prohibiting free peaceful assemblies of the American people (Lewis 2001). A notable example in this regard is Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), when the court rule that killing an animal for religiously-related purposes is authorized , and no one should be convicted on the basis of killing an animal for religious purposes. It was also found out that the states couldn’t interfere with religious rights of the American people. In particular, suppressing more religious conduct than required by interests of the state is unconstitutional. As a result, the existence of this precedent made it possible for those, accused of cruel treatment of animals to seek exoneration on religious freedom grounds.
The Fourth Amendment
The main purpose of adopting the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution was to protect the public from unreasonable and illegal searches and seizures, as well as it made obligatory for the law enforcement practitioners to seek a judicially sanctioned warrant (Thomas 1999).
One of the recent landmark decisions of the United States Supreme Court in was Maryland v. King, 569 U.S. (2013), where the Court ruled that conducting reasonable identity checks like a cheek swab to get DNA samples, taking fingerprints and photographing a suspect is entirely consistent with the Fourth Amendment. The adoption of this ruling made it difficult for the criminal defense attorneys to exploit ubiquitous procedural laws, which are frequently perpetrated by the law enforcement practitioners. In addition, adoption of this provision made it easier to investigate future crimes, because even if a suspect was found to be not guilty, his DNA samples will be added to the national databases. Should he ever commit a crime again, the law enforcement practitioners can easily establish his identity.
The Eights Amendment
The rationale behind the Eights Amendment of the United States was to ban the government from placing excessive bails, imposing too heavy fines and using cruel and unusual punishments (Stinneford 2011). Thus, in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), the Supreme Court of the United Stated ruled that it is illegal to execute mentally retarded people. Thus, one of the strategies, which are sometimes used by the defense counsels of those, who are on the death row, is attempting to prove that the defendant was mentally imbalanced at the time making a crime. This ruling is a powerful solution for protecting those, who did not understand and comprehend the nature of their actions, when the crime was being committed. The key rationale of the entire criminal law is punishing those, who had willful intent, or who was negligent when committing a crime. Those, who suffer from psychological dementias, should be cured, not tried.
The Fourteenth Amendment
The key part of the Fourteenth Amendment of the American Constitution is the Due Process Clause, meaning that everyone should be safeguarded from arbitrary and procedurally inconsistent activities of the law enforcement authorities (Bogen 2003). One of the key manifestations of this case is Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co., 556 U.S. 868 (2009), where the court ruled that the judge should recuse himself when there are ‘extreme facts’ which make the “probability of bias” high. The existence of this case made it possible for the criminal defendants to challenge the judges, who may be interested in a specific outcome of the process, or whose neutral judging seemed questionable to the members of the defense panel. In many cases, it remains an effective (and often the only) solution against prejudiced judges.
Lewis, A. (2007). Freedom for the Thought That We Hate : a biography of the First Amendment. New York: Basic Books.
Thomas, D.Y. (1999). "Recovering the Original Fourth Amendment". Michigan Law Review 98 (3): 547–750
Stinneford, J.F. (2011). "Rethinking Proportionality under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause". Virginia Law Review 899, 926–61
Bogen, D. (2003). Privileges and Immunities : A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution. Westport, Conn: Praeger.