A. When the police receive a report of a crime, investigating officers are sent to the scene to
find evidence, preserve the crime scene, investigate potential defendants, prepare reports of their findings, and ultimately make an arrest.
A. If the judge believes there is probable cause or a reasonable belief
that a crime has been committed, the judge will issue a search warrant stating
exactly what the police are looking for and where they can search.
A. If the police observe a suspect driving erratically, they are
permitted to stop the vehicle. If the police smell alcohol on the suspect's
breath or have reason to believe the suspect is intoxicated, they have the right
to administer "field sobriety" tests. The suspect will be asked to walk a
straight line and touch his finger to nose with eyes closed. If the police
reasonably believe that a suspect is under the influence of alcohol, they can
request the suspect to give blood, a urine sample or take a breath test. These
tests measure the amount of alcohol in a suspect's system.
A. The police can use a confidential informant, a person who supplies information to the police without having his identity disclosed, to develop evidence. The information obtained from a confidential informant can provide probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant. A confidential informant is generally one who has provided reliable information in the past and who would be in danger if his identity was disclosed.
A. The police do not have to tell a defendant of the nature of the alleged crime nor are they required to advise a defendant of their Miranda rights unless they intend to conduct an interrogation. The police may not use excessive force during the arrest.
The Miranda Rule was developed to protect the defendants right against self-incrimination. The Miranda warnings ensure that people in custody realize that they do not have to talk to the police and have a right to an attorney. The warning must advise the defendant that they have a right to remain silent, a right to an attorney, that an attorney will be appointed if the defendant cannot afford one, and that statements made voluntarily can be used in a subsequent criminal proceeding. If the Miranda warnings are not given, a defendant is not entitled to dismissal of criminal charges. Rather, any statements made by a defendant who has not been Mirandized are inadmissible in the criminal case.
In the period before trial, defendants will file pre-trial motions to suppress (exclude on technical grounds) evidence, and determine the nature of the evidence and the identity of witnesses that will be used by the state. Defendants will rarely give statements before trial due to their constitutional right to be protected from self-incrimination. The possibility of a plea bargain will also be explored.
The court will consider aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors include prior convictions, whether the crime was violent, and similar considerations. Mitigating factors include stable employment, family history and volunteer work on behalf of the community. The court may impose a fine, put the defendant on probation (release the defendant under conditions, including reimbursement, counseling and reporting to a probation officer) or send the defendant to jail. Many states have mandatory sentences and sentencing guidelines which limit the court's discretion in imposing a sentence. Mandatory sentencing guidelines do, however, assure that all defendants will be treated equally.
A. A habeas corpus proceeding challenges a conviction or detention in jail on the grounds that the defendant's constitutional rights have been violated. The court may conduct an evidentiary hearing as part of the proceeding.