WARRANTLESS COLLECTION OF DNA — MARYLAND V. KING, 133 S.CT. 1958 (2013)

One of the areas of criminal law that I have always found interesting involves the standards for warrantless searches. Today, I am revisiting an important criminal law case from a few years ago known as Maryland v. King, 133 S.Ct. 1958 (2013). In Maryland v. King, the United States Supreme Court was asked to decide if the Constitution prevented the routine collection of DNA from someone who is arrested. The challenge to collecting DNA without a warrant was based on the Fourth Amendment. As a refresher, the Fourth Amendment states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. The Fourth Amendment protects each of us from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government and stands as one of the pinnacles of privacy law by restricting government conduct. The facts in Maryland v. King were rather simple. In 2003 a woman was raped. She reported the attack and a underwent a rape exam. A sample of the unknown perpetrator’s DNA was obtained and entered into a Maryland DNA database. Six years later, Mr. King, was arrested on unrelated assault charges. After his arrest, a routine warrantless DNA sample was taken by means of a cheek swab. Mr. King’s DNA sample was run through the Maryland DNA database and matched the sample from the 2003 rape exam. Charges were then brought against Mr. King for...

THE RIGHT TO EFFECTIVE COUNSEL

Today’s we review the accused’s constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel. This not only encompasses the right to have counsel — but also to have competent legal representation, regardless of whether you hire your lawyer or your lawyer is appointed by the court.  The right to effective assistance of counsel applies at trial as well as to the plea bargain process. The right to effective counsel comes from the Sixth Amendment which specifically states that: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. One of the seminal cases is Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). This case affirmed that the right to effective counsel exists and is needed to protect an individual’s fundamental right to a fair trial. In Strickland the Supreme Court was asked to determine whether in the death penalty phase the criminal defendant had received effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court established a two part test for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. To be successful on an ineffective assistance of counsel appeal, the defendant must establish the following: That the attorney’s actions and/or inactions fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and That but for the attorney’ ineffective...

THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

In our experience, local police and law enforcement officers can usually be counted on to act fairly and professionally when interacting with members of the public. Nevertheless, it is still important for you to understand your rights. So today we want to revisit one of the most important constitutional rights that we all share — the right to remain silent. In the United States, the right to remain silent comes from that part of the Fifth Amendment which says that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is also known as your right against self-incrimination. These rights are communicated to you with the familiar words used by law enforcement: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? These five sentences together are known as a Miranda Warning. They are the result of the decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966). As a result of the Miranda decision, law enforcement officials must specifically advise anyone taken into custody of the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. It is important for you to remember that while you have a right to remain silent, it has to be asserted by you or it will be waived. You affirmatively assert your...

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives each of us some of our most valuable rights as U.S. citizens. It specifically gives each of us the right to be secure in our homes. It also protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, because these rights are personal —  only you can assert them. And if you don’t assert them, no one will assert them on your behalf. In fact, you actually waive your rights when you fail to personally assert them. Moreover, with very limited exceptions the government does not have to explain your rights to you before asking you to do something that will waive those rights. Because the 4th Amendment is one of the fundamental underpinnings of individual liberty in our society, a look at its history is informative. The founders of our country generally agreed that all persons had a natural right to be free from government intrusion into their homes. In fact, one of the biggest grievances that led to the American Revolution was the use of “writs of assistance” by the British government. With a “writ of assistance,” the King’s representatives could enter your property with no notice and for no particular reason. In a well known case from that time, Boston lawyer James Otis represented a group of merchants who sued the British government claiming that the use of writs of assistance against was unjust. While Mr. Otis lost the case, his argument condemning writs of assistance and general search warrants was considered by many (including John Adams who was present in the courtroom) to be one of the sparks...

CITY OF RICHLAND LOSES ZONING DISPUTE

In an important property rights and zoning case handled by our firm, the Mississippi Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the Mississippi Court of Appeal’s reversal of a zoning resolution passed by the City of Richland. In this case we represented Cleveland Mobile Home Community. The appeal was the result of an unconstitutional ordinance passed by the City of Richland in an effort to shut down the mobile home community. In April 2008, the City of Richland passed a resolution stating that anytime a mobile home was moved out of the park, the space could not be re-used or re-rented. So the effect of the ordinance was to gradually reduce the revenue so that Cleveland MHC would be forced out of business. On behalf of Cleveland MHC, we appealed the City’s actions through a Bill of Exceptions to the Rankin County Circuit Court. In response, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen argued that their resolution was proper under the City’s zoning ordinance, and that it was a valid exercise of the City’s police powers. The Circuit Court upheld City’s actions. We then appealed the case to the Mississippi Court of Appeals who ruled 9-1 that the attempt to destroy the Mobile Home Community by attrition was “arbitrary, capricious, and illegal.” The City of Richland then requested the case be reviewed by the Mississippi Supreme Court because the case presented a matter of first impression in Mississippi. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the requested review. However, in the opinion handed down yesterday, the Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Court of Appeals finding that Richland’s actions appeared to be without reason...