Grand Jury Investigations
Grounded in the fourth amendment, the exclusionary rule provides protection to citizens from unlawful searches and seizures. It prevents the citizens from prosecutors and the police using evidence that was illegally collected violating the fifth amendment where citizens may be compelled to act as witnesses against themselves. The citizens through the sixth amendment have a right to counsel hence the exclusionary rule provides protection against the violation of this right. Evidence obtained in an illegal search, arrest, interrogations or seizure should under no instance be submitted to the court of law. such type of evidence is legally defined as the fruits of a poisonous tree. There are, however, instances when the exclusionary law is exempted such as in a civil case, or a grand jury proceeding. The law empowers a grand jury that is composed of 12-23 citizens, to conduct legal proceedings as well as make criminal conduct investigations and evaluate whether criminal charges should be brought. The grand jury investigations comprise obtaining and reviewing the evidence against a defendant and hearing testimonies from witnesses who are taken before the grand jury. In terms of laying accusations, the jury determines whether there is enough reason to believe that a defendant committed the accused offenses, which is done in a district court (Regensburger, 2019). It determines whether a crime was committed and whether to fix charges on the defendant in relation to the crime. It being a separate entity from the courts exempts it from exercising the exclusionary rule.
United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 1974).
In the United States v. Calandra case, a federal grand jury questioned John P. Calandra over the accusation of loan sharking activities. A warrant had been issued to conduct a search on Calandra’s company, pursuant to gambling operations by the grand jury investigations. The agents found no gambling equipment upon execution of the warrant, but instead, they seized the information of something else that had not been warranted. The agents made a seizure of records related to loanshark operations as well as books regarding the suspected loansharking activity. Calandra was to witness against himself before a grand jury but he refused on the basis of the Fifth Amendment where the victim is provided protection against self-incrimination (Goldstein, & Witzel, 2018). He was awarded transactional immunity. Evidence that informed the questions directed towards him was derived from a search conducted on his business, Royal Machine and Tool Company. The defendant refused to give a response to any of the questions by insinuating that the search on his Royal Machine and Tools company was illegal and that the search had violated the fourth amendment. At the district court, the government made attempts to protect Calandra by providing him with immunity but instead, he requested that the court suppress evidence that was acquired during the search. The suppression order was granted by the district court a move that was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The basis for the affirmation was that the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applied. It is under the exclusionary rule that any evidence that is obtained through an unlawful search and seizure cannot be used against the respective defendant in a criminal proceeding. The supreme court reversed two lower court decisions by holding that a grand jury witness had no entitlement to invoke the exclusionary rule by refusing to answer the question that were based on the unlawful search and seizure. It was determined that the subpoena was a fruit on the poison, meaning, the documents were useful despite being retrieved from an illegal search. The witness was denied the right to make interruptions to the proceedings of the grand jury for the purpose of having a hearing on the legality of the search (United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 1974).
The main question was, is a witness entitles to refuse to answer questions directed toward him or her by a grand jury in the case where the questions are based on evidence based on unlawful search and seizure?
The Fourth Amendment provides protection against unwarranted search and seizure (Maclin, 2013). Initially, the federal agent had obtained a search warrant on evidence pertaining to the gambling operations that Calandra was suspected to be running in his Royal Machine and Tools Company that was based in Cleveland, Ohio. No evidence was found regarding the gambling operations that the warrant had provided. However, documents and book records were seizure by the agents regarding loansharking which was not under the warrant. When Calandra was presented before the grand jury, he refused to respond to the questions that were asked regarding the seized document. His argument was that the evidence was based unlawful search and therefore he had the right to the exclusionary rule. According to the exclusionary rule, Calandra had all the rights to stay silent since his fourth amendment right had been violated. The court at that point could have dismissed the case based on the violation of his right.
Secondly, Calandra was protected by the fifth amendment where he was not to provide incriminating evidence against himself. It can be argued that this was the major reason as to why Calandra failed to respond to any of the questions that were asked when he was brought before the grand jury investigations. The law is applicable to American citizens that have been accused of a crime and taken to court, Calandra was no exemption. He could not testify against himself on evidence that was unlawful.
Lastly, even though exclusionary law applies to cases where the evidence is obtained from unlawful search, there are instances where it may be exempted. In this case, the evidence obtained against Calandra was not warranted and was subject to the exclusionary law, but it was later determined that the evidence would be useful in the grand jury proceeding. The evidence unlawfully obtained would open up to further criminal investigations against Calandra. Loansharking was not far off from gambling in terms of its illegal nature and the information contained in the book recorded seized would help in further investigations against Calandra. The supreme court, therefore, reversed the previous decision to suppress unlawful evidence against Calandra. It was determined that the evidence be brought back to court and the files against Calandra be re-opened for the evidence obtained was a fruit of the poison.
Citizens may be protected by the exclusionary rule against unwarranted search and seizure and may have full protection against self-discrimination. However, there are situations that the rights may be invoked and denied by the supreme court. Grand jury investigations are independent of the court and are responsible for determining the validity of accusations against a victim. The accused has, however, the right to exclusion before the jury where they may choose not to answer to question s based on evidence from an unlawful search. The supreme court is the overall determinant on whether a case should be upheld or dismissed based on the evidence presented.
Exclusionary Rule: United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 (1974). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5913&conte xt=jclc
Goldstein, H. W., & Witzel, S. M. (2018). Grand jury practice. Law Journal Press.
Maclin, T. (2013). The Supreme Court and the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule. Oxford University Press.
Regensburger, D. (2019). Criminal evidence: From crime scene to the courtroom. Aspen Publishers.