Opinion for the Court in Mr. Smith vs. the State
As a clerk for an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, prepare a 4–5-page opinion for the Court based on the following facts:
James Smith was arrested for burglarizing his next-door neighbor’s apartment in the state of California. And without the benefit of a warrant, the neighbor, who is a friend of Mr. Smith, forced open the front door to Mr. Smith’s apartment and saw his property. The neighbor called the police, and they immediately arrested Mr. Smith for burglary and possession of stolen property out of fear that he would get rid of the property before they returned with a search warrant. Mr. Smith’s convictions in the state and federal courts were upheld, and it is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Prepare the Court’s response to the challenge that Mr. Smith’s constitutional rights were violated.
Be sure to include the following in your opinion:
Identify specific examples in the language of prior decisions.
Examine some of the arguments used by the framers of the Constitution while debating the language of the document.
Include any philosophical underpinning that might influence the Court’s ruling.
Include any social forces that could be useful to guide the decision.
Outline major philosophical arguments of the U.S. Supreme Court in such cases as Weeks v. United States and Mapp v. Ohio.
Use specific references to support your position from the U.S. Constitution and the philosophical perspective of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which helped shape constitutional law in the United States.
You will be graded on the clarity of your opinion, the presentation of your position, use of proper APA format, and your understanding of the Bill of Rights and natural law.
Oyez. (n.d.). Mapp v. Ohio. Retrieved from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1960/236
Oyez. (n.d.). Weeks v. United States. Retrieved from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/232us383
The United States constitution under the Fourth Amendment understands our homes as a castle, meaning that we should be protected from any unauthorized intrusion (Root, 2018). This implies that nobody has the right to enter into our home whether we are in or away without either our consent or a search warrant. Moreover, the law also prohibits state officers from administering any illegally obtained evidence in court, because it would be a breach of the law. However, despite the recognition of this fact, the United States courts failed to give the right attention to how the prosecution obtained evidence when coming up with decisions on whether this evidence deserved to be taken into consideration in any legal proceedings. Instead, the courts have always permitted this evidence regardless of how it had been obtained with separate action being preferred to prosecute the offenders. By taking such an approach, it means that the 4th Amendment has lost its value especially when criminal defendants try to use it in favor of the defense case.
The case file James Smith vs. the state is a good example of situations where the 4th amendment has failed to protect the defendants against illegal searches. In this case, Smith was accused of burglarizing his neighbor’s apartment. Smith neighbor while searching for his stolen items opened Smith’s house without any search warrant or authorization and found his property after which he called the police. Fearing that Smith might get rid of this stolen property before they could obtain a search warrant, the police opted to arrest him first before obtained the search warrant later. Smith was later convicted in the state court, with the federal court dismissing his appeal. With this case being brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, the court will have to answer some fundamental questions revolving around the Fourth Amendment before the final verdict on whether to agree or disagree with the rulings of the junior courts can be made.
This court is obligated to determine two key questions with the first being on whether the search and seizure of the items found in Mr. Smith’s house violated the 4th Amendment.
Secondly, the court has to establish whether the items obtained from Mr. Smith’s residence without a search warrant can be used as evidence against him in a court of law.
Opinion for the Court
According to the 4th Amendment, nobody has the right to enter into our homes whether we are in or away without either our consent or a search warrant. This law s supported by the judgment in the case Weeks v. U.S, where the court ruled that the Fourth Amendment had been violated. In its judgment, the court noted that individual rights protected under the 4th Amendment should apply to all people regardless of their accusations. Similarly, police required to have obtained a search warrant before raiding Smith’s house to recover the items that were allegedly stolen. The fact that the police obtained evidence without a search warrant or the consent of Mr. Smith means that a violation of the fourth Amendment had taken place. Going back to the Weeks v. U.S case, having established that the state officers had violated the Fourth Amendment, the court exercised the “exclusionary rule”. This rule restricts federal officers from carrying out unwarranted or unreasonable searches and then using the evidence obtained in court because it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. As such, allowing the police to use the items obtained in Smith’s house as evidence in court is a violation of the 4th Amendment and such evidence should not be allowed in court because it would set a bad precedence that encourages law enforcement agencies to violate the same law they are supposed to protect.
It is worth noting that before the Weeks v. U.S ruling, the court was always very lenient on how the evidence admitted to court was obtained and as such there were numerous incidence where the Fourth Amendment was violated but went unpunished. As such, the Weeks v. U.S ruling set a precedence preventing the police from conducting unauthorized intrusion into an individual’s private property without their consent. This means that if the courts were going to decline any evidence obtained without following the outlined legal framework or respecting the Fourth Amendment, then the prosecution had no business presenting such evidence in court. Based on this understanding, the police had no obligation to present the items collected in Smith’s house without a search warrant as evidence.
The Mapp v. Ohio case in 1961 followed the precedence set by the Weeks v. U.S, where the ruling applied the exclusionary rule when it comes to collection of evidence by the court. Today the exclusionary rule has now become an important principle of the fourth amendment. This means that people are protected from unnecessary searches because it is a violation of their fundamental rights enshrined in the fourth amendment. Bellowing from the precedent set in the two previous ruling, then there is no doubt that the prosecution erred in presenting the items obtained from Smith’s house without a search warrant as evidence before a court of law. These facts imply that the state should not be allowed admit any unlawfully obtained evidence before court because it would encourage continued disobedience of the Federal Constitution by state officers.
Critics of this approach may argue that dismissing this case on grounds of such technicalities serves to benefit the accused persons. For instance, in the case, People v. Defore, Justice Cardozo argued that under the “exclusionary rule”, a criminal stands a chance of walking away free because the police officers blundered when collecting evidence. Justice Cardozo goes further to explain that though a guilty criminal may walk free because of the exclusionary rule, we must not forget that it is the law that sets them free. To clarify his point, Justice Cardozo highlights that we have to consider that upholding judicial integrity is inevitable in any court procedure. As such, the court has no otherwise but to follow the law which prohibits state officers from administering any illegally obtained evidence in court, because it would be a breach of the 4th Amendment. Based on these facts, the court is of the opinion that it is better for a let a criminal walk away on technical grounds than tolerate law enforces to apply shortcuts methods when enforcing the law because it would set a bad precedence which is a violation of the constitution by the very people who are supposed to protect it.
From the foregoing, the opinion of the court in regards to the two questions is that the search and seizure of the items found in Mr. Smith’s house without a search warrant violated the 4th Amendment. The exclusionary principle restricts federal officers from carrying out unwarranted or unreasonable searches and using the evidence obtained in court. Based on this understanding, therefore, the items obtained from Mr. Smith’s residence without a search warrant cannot be used as evidence against him in a court of law. While dismissing this case on grounds of such technicalities serves to benefit the accused persons, the court has no option but to uphold the rule of law. The conclusion is that it is better for a criminal walk away on such technicalities than to tolerate law enforces to apply shortcuts methods when enforcing the law because not only would it violate the constitution but also it would set a bad precedence.
JUSTIA. (2019). Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914). Retrieved from https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/232/383/
JUSTIA. (2019). Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961). Retrieved from https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/367/643/
Root, D. (2018, March 15). Why Courts Reject Illegally Obtained Evidence. Retrieved from https://reason.com/2018/03/15/why-courts-reject-illegally-ob