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Criminal Justice: Criminal Procedures

A significant number of individuals have undergone stressful if not unexpected humiliating experiences during their encounters with law enforcers. While some of these encounters resulted to apprehensions, many of them have turned out to be motivated by poor judgment on the part of law enforcers. Consequently, many individuals have sought legal redress after these encounters because many of them rarely understand the basis that led law enforcers to such actions. This paper is an evaluation of a number of law enforcement practices and their definition as they appertain to legal discourse and constitutional protection of rights. The practices to be investigated include stop and frisk, special needs searches, regulatory searches, and seizures. In particular, there will be a consideration of the inherent differences among all these practices with evidence from both case studies from the textbook and secondary material.

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Stop and Frisk

Typically, this practice is evident when a law enforcer approaches an individual, detains the individual, and runs his or her hands lightly over the person’s outer garments to determine the presence of a weapon. Often, such action is motivated if the law enforcer is suspicious of the individual. Frisking can only extend to the inside of a person’s clothing (it is now a search) if there is reason to suspect that a substance detected after the process of frisking is indeed dangerous. This practice by law enforcers is permissible under the Fourth Amendment Act, which accepts its implementation without a warrant when the safety of the officer and the surrounding public may be at stake. The Terry v. Ohio case of 1968 (Lewkowicz, 2013) endorsed the admissibility of this practice, with a similar case having a favorable ruling for its application in the Maryland v. Buie case of 1989. Majority of the court rulings support the stop and frisk procedure on the condition that the law enforcer has reasonable suspicions or is acting on a person whose verification is evident by the target individual’s conduct and appearance. Consent from the target person is not a must for the officer to undertake this exercise.

“Special Needs” Search

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This type of search also does not need a warrant, probable cause, or justifiable individual suspicion. However, it differs from the stop and frisk procedure in that its administration is independent of the customary need to enforce the law. In this case, the searching party has the permission to conduct the search out of the need to investigate a latent condition or to prevent the development of a suspect condition. A typical scenario involves the Maryland v. Buie case of 1989, in which the officers raiding the home of Mr. Buie after obtaining a court warrant had to go inside the suspect’s basement to ascertain the absence of other individuals or dangerous substances. The War on Terror, perhaps, better represents this procedure. In this situation, a police officer whose assessment of a threat reveals a potential risk is permitted to conduct an arbitrary search of the target venue or individual. The distinction of this search from the stop and frisk policy is that the threat is real but the officer lacks a foolproof method that will confine the search or seizure to “potential terrorist.” Therefore, the employment of this procedure is acceptable by the courts only if it intends to address concerns that are not in the general interest of the government’s crime prevention and control mechanisms (Simmons, 2010).

Regulatory Search

Any authorized representative from the local authority or the government may carry out this procedure, with a prior notice sent or not sent to the target individual. Therefore, the distinctive feature of this policy from other methods is that the party undertaking it does not have to be a security agent. Therefore, permitted parties include Municipal officers, fire department officers, and health officers among others. The administration of this procedure intends to enforce the administrative regulations prescribed by authority. However, the need of a warrant in this case varies with the circumstances and the nature of the target persons. For instance, majority of commercial interests are subject to regulatory searches only if the searching party has obtained warrants. However, the “Closely regulated” industries are subject to searches that have no warrants, which are termed “inspections.” In this case, there are three requirements that have to be fulfilled (Sundby, 2007). The first requirement is the presence of a significant government interest that informs the target party of the existence of the “regulation policy.” Second, the inspection must be furthering the observance of the “regulation policy.” Third, the “regulatory policy” must be capable of sanctioning the inspection after adequately advising all the targets of its legality, and defining the discretionary limits of the inspecting party (Gershman, 1988). The Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco case of 1967 demonstrated the applicability of this law. Camara, a homeowner, faced conviction on the charge of denying the inspection party entry into his house even after multiple search warrants had been issued to him.


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Although not a search procedure per se, this instance permits the searching party to take possession of a property belonging to, or suspected to belong to the person under detention if the object is in plain sight (Sundby, 2007). Often, a seizure simultaneously occurs with all the types of the searches described above. The requirement of the object to be in plain view does not compromise the person’s rights to privacy. Interestingly, the courts of law are likely to endorse seizures even in cases where a wrong suspect is detained and the suspect is found in possession of contraband. Similarly, any evidence that the suspect is being furtive of invites a limited police search that does not need a warrant.

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