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SCOTUS Continues Its Removal of Constitutional Protections for the Criminally Accused

On Tuesday, the 25th of February, 2014, the United States Supreme Court released several written opinions. Among those written opinions were two of particular importance for the criminally accused, Fernandez v. California and Kaley v. United States. The two cases shared a common theme, the continued removal of protections for the criminally accused by the United States’ highest court.

In Fernandez, the Supreme Court addressed a 4th Amendment search question. The issue, in summation, is whether police may search a home or apartment where more than one individual presides based on the consent of only one of the occupants, where the remaining occupants have previously objected but are currently not present.

In an opinion written by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual must be present to maintain their objection to a search; otherwise the police may search pursuant to the consent of an authorized consenting individual. In other words, if the police approach a house where one inhabitant consents and the others objects to a search, the police must now just wait until the objector leaves the house and ask the remaining individual for consent to search. The government now seems to have a Supreme Court sanctioned loophole under which an individual’s constitutional right to object to a search means nothing in a shared dwelling.

In Kaley, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of pretrial asset seizure and foreclosure by the government. Pretrial asset seizure occurs when the government, through a foreclosure action, seizes an individual’s assets which are reasonably believed to have been gained through criminal activity. Assets subject to pretrial seizure include currency, bank accounts, houses, vehicles, jewelry and many other items which have monetary value and may be traceable to the criminal activity alleged.

The seizure of an individual’s assets often prohibits an individual from being able to hire his attorney of choice and instead forces him to obtain a public defender or other appointed attorney. Seizure of ones funds just because they are “reasonably believed” to have been related to criminal activity arguably infringes on an individual’s 5th and 6th Amendment rights as the individual is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty and to have the right to hire an attorney. By taking an accused’s assets, the government seems to be assuming guilt instead of innocence and also greatly inhibiting the accused’s ability to prove his innocence.

With these and other cases by the Supreme Court continuing to erode the constitutional rights of the criminally accused, it is as important as ever that if you’re accused or suspected of a crime, you refrain from speaking with the police and obtain qualified legal representation. The attorneys at the Clifford Division of Clifford Clendenin & O’Hale, LLP are knowledgeable in the law and will fight for your rights. If you need criminal legal representation call 336-574-2788 or email clifford@cliffordlawoffice.com.

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We Handle:

  • Criminal cases in North Carolina District Court and Superior Court in Guilford County, including Greensboro and High Point
  • 50B and 50C protection order cases in both North Carolina District Courts in Guilford County, including Greensboro and High Point
  • Federal criminal cases
    • Misdemeanors in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and sometimes Statesville and Durham
    • Felonies in all four cities and on a case-by-case basis in any federal court in the United States
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    on an individual basis
  • Private prosecutions in state court on a case-by-case basis

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