April 2011 Archives

A common misconception is that law enforcement officials are entitled to stop and question citizens without any basis or reason for doing so. In reality, a set of firm legal guidelines are in place that govern whether or not an officer is permitted to stop and frisk nearby pedestrians.

For a police officer to stop someone, the officer must have a reasonable belief that a crime is either being committed or about to be committed. While this standard falls well below the probable cause an officer must have to arrest or search a suspect, an officer must be able to identify and articulate specific facts that explain their reasonable belief that the person stopped has been engaged in criminal activity. Circumstances considered in justifying an officer's reasonable belief are whether an individual is near where a crime was recently reported, whether the individual matches a suspect description, whether or not the individual attempts to flee, and whether the individual exhibits nervous or agitated behavior upon being stopped. It is important to note that while an officer may stop an individual based upon a reasonable belief, the individual being stopped is not required to respond to the officer and may only be arrested if their responses or actions create probable cause for arrest.

Police Deception and the Waiver of Miranda Rights

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Possibly the most highly publicized process in criminal procedure is the reading of Miranda rights to an individual accused of a criminal act.  Surely, if you have seen one of the many cop-dramas that currently are being aired on television, you have witnessed some form of a reenactment of the reading of Miranda rights. 

Miranda rights held by the accused are the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning, as well as an advisement that any statements made going forward can be used against the accused in a court of law.  For the accused to waive their Miranda rights, the law requires the waiver to made in a voluntary, knowing and in an intelligent manner.  Determining whether a valid waiver has been made will depend on all the circumstances surrounding the waiver.