Share
Explore BrainMass

California State Court System: Illegal Search & Amendment Rights

Scenario

18-year old Adam Jones has been arrested for shooting an undercover policeman in San Diego, California. Officer Lewis was part of a team investigating street gang criminal conduct and was out of uniform in an unmarked car when he was killed. Jones, who believed Lewis was a rival gang member, shot him from a moving vehicle with an assault rifle.

Lewis' undercover partner arrested Jones at the scene. Jones fired the weapon from his car, so it was impounded and searched incident to arrest. Within hours of his arrest, the house he shares with his parents was searched. The warrant to search turned up photos of other gang members posing with an arsenal of ammunition and weapons. To their surprise, the officers also found counterfeit plates for US currency and piles of failed attempts to reproduce $20 dollar bills in a locked garage at his parents' home.

Jones' blood level at arrest tested positive for heroin and marijuana. He was also in possession of both drugs. On the way to jail, Jones bragged to the officer that he had shot a policeman and that he would be a hero in prison and with his gang.

The newly elected City Attorney responsible for prosecuting Mr. Jones is Jane Harrison. She announced before Officer Lewis' funeral that she did not intend to seek the death penalty. Under California law, using an assault weapon or killing a law enforcement officer is a "special circumstance" allowing the prosecutor to ask for the death penalty.

During her election campaign, Harrison disclosed that she was personally opposed to the death penalty, and even though California allows it, she was not willing to ask for it even under "special circumstances" that would allow for it. Separate and apart from Harrison's personal philosophy, her opinion reflects the majority opinion of the populous of San Diego, where juries have only returned two death penalty decisions in over 50 years. She won the election handily.

Outraged by the Chief Prosecutor's decision not to seek the death penalty, law enforcement agencies statewide have asked Harrison to recuse (excuse) herself and allow the State Attorney General to prosecute. One U.S. Senator has asked for Federal prosecution and the death penalty. This case has national attention because of the tension between the agency cry for the death penalty and the prosecutor's unusual position of defending against it.

You work as an intern at a premium criminal defense firm in the city. On Saturday, senior partner Steve McBride received a call from a friend to say that his young son Adam had been arrested for killing a policeman and needed help. McBride agreed to help, and he will lead the defense team. He has put together a team of interns to assist him at every step. You are a key player on the intern team. Over the next weeks, you will provide briefings and research on legal and procedural matters for McBride in order to help provide the best defense for Jones.

Details: If we prevail on the motion to suppress evidence from the illegal search (4th Amendment violation), it is unlikely that there will be a federal prosecution. Therefore, we need to look ahead to set strategy in state court.

Begin by charting out the various courts and hearings that will typically occur and how the case is affected by each event. Assume the case remains in state court.

Outline the various courts in the California state system where Jones will appear and why he is appearing there, from arraignment to trial and the stages of appeal. Note which constitutional amendment is in action at each stage.

Discuss all the potential hearings that Jones may face in this criminal proceeding from the beginning to end of the process. Also include any motion hearings that you feel Jones could benefit from. Think in terms of your defense strategy. Also remember to discuss the relevant constitutional amendments brought into play in the discussion of each court hearing described.

Identify and differentiate civil liberties protected in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments.

Examine the history of the Bill of Rights with focus on the Constitutional Amendments pertaining to criminal procedure and due process.

Identify the basic elements of the court system.

Solution Preview

Welcome to BrainMass.

In an attempt to follow the "problem," I have included most of the problem with discussions that apply to the particular topic your instructor wishes addressed. It was not always possible, because sometimes the same challenge would appear in different areas, but I believe the following information will help you with your assignment. Please always make note of quotes from any of the information you are given.

Scenario:

18-year old Adam Jones has been arrested for shooting an undercover policeman in San Diego, California. Officer Lewis was part of a team investigating street gang criminal conduct and was out of uniform in an unmarked car when he was killed. Jones, who believed Lewis was a rival gang member, shot him from a moving vehicle with an assault rifle.

Lewis' undercover partner arrested Jones at the scene. Jones fired the weapon from his car, so it was impounded and searched incident to arrest. Within hours of his arrest, the house he shares with his parents was searched. The warrant to search turned up photos of other gang members posing with an arsenal of ammunition and weapons. To their surprise, the officers also found counterfeit plates for US currency and piles of failed attempts to reproduce $20 dollar bills in a locked garage at his parents' home.

Please note that quotations should be given appropriate credit to the author of the information.

Deliberately shooting a weapon at a vehicle that was known to have a person or persons inside the vehicle, whether or not they were the persons that one expected them to be, and having a weapon in the suspect's possession would more than "probably" establish a reasonable suspicion that Jones had intended to harm someone.

"Reasonable Suspicion
- based upon the totality of the circumstances, 'officers must have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the ... person stopped of criminal activity (Cortez, 1981-245)'

"Plain View Seizures
- necessary elements of a plain view seizure
- right to be in a certain place (lawful access to the evidence)
- probable cause to believe that the seized item is contraband, evidence of a crime, etc.
- inadvertence is not a necessary condition of a legitimate 'plain view' seizure (Horton v. California, 1990-334) (S. Andrew Schaffer, 2004 "Criminal Procedure Outline NYU)"

A defense against this claim could be that Jones was shooting at the car, not the persons in it simply to intimidate them.
A prosecutor could counter this with the statements Jones made in the vehicle about being proud to have shot a police officer if Jones had been mirandized - The case put before us does not give us that information. Presuming that Jones had been mirandized, that statement could be used to indicate that bodily harm was intended. If he had NOT been mirandized, this evidence could not be used. (Fifth Amendment) On the other hand the defense might suggest that his claim was made simply to get him "admiration" from his "friends." Had the shooter been seen by anyone? Were there others in the car that could have committed the shooting?

It is clear that a crime had been committed from within the vehicle, that at least one gun was in the vehicle and that Jones was in possession of illegal drugs, and a search of that vehicle would be legal.

"Automobiles and other movable objects: Exceptions to the warrant requirements
- no warrant requirement: police may search an automobile without a warrant, so long as they have PC to believe that it contains evidence of criminal activity (Carroll v. United States, 1925-340) (Schaffer, 2004)

Where was the vehicle impounded and was it protected from intrusion before it was searched. (Chain of evidence requirement)

Jones' blood level at arrest tested positive for heroin and marijuana. He was also in possession of both drugs. On the way to jail, Jones bragged to the officer that he had shot a policeman and that he would be a hero in prison and with his gang.
An attorney could use this information to defend Jones by claiming he was not of sound mind at the time of the crime and unable to make an informed decision.

The newly elected City Attorney responsible for prosecuting Mr. Jones is ...

Solution Summary

This solution addresses the arrest and prosecution of an 18-year old who is accused of the drive-by shooting of an un-uniformed police officer in an unmarked vehicle, the potential defense and prosecution, the care in observing Constitutional rights, and the court system and procedures in the California court system. This solution is 2000+ words.

$2.19