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Interrogation and Identification: A Suspect's Rights

Police interrogation is an unavoidable part of the criminal justice system. Police must be able to properly identify and interrogate arrested suspects in order to provide the prosecution with enough solid evidence to press formal charges. Courts have long recognized, however, that despite its necessity, the high-pressure nature of police questioning and identification after arrest can often lead to bad information and coerced confessions. Witnesses may succumb to the powers of suggestion, and suspects may tell police what they want to hear because of fear and intimidation. The Constitution protects individuals against abuse in the criminal justice system, and courts have buttressed those rights with rules designed to protect the truth of confessions and identifications obtained while a suspect is in custody.

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What Happens if I am Pulled Over for Drunk Driving?

Once you are pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving, an officer will usually ask you to perform a field sobriety test. This usually consists of tasks that will allow the officer to observe your level of physical or cognitive impairment, like walking heel to toe in a straight line or reciting the alphabet backwards. Refusing to participate in a field sobriety test is generally fruitless, as the officer will request that you submit to chemical testing. This may include a breathalyzer test, which an officer can do on the scene, and blood and urine tests, which must be performed at a medical facility. You are required to submit to such testing should an officer ask, and refusal to participate in chemical testing can result in an immediate suspension of your driver’s license for six months to a year. Depending on the circumstances, refusal to submit to the testing can yield a higher penalty than the drunk driving conviction itself. These "implied consent" laws rest on the assumption that if you have undertaken the responsibility of driving a car, then you have given consent to be tested for your ability to drive that vehicle safely.

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Case Summaries

[01/09] Smith v. US
In appeal from conviction of conspiracy charges for role in illegal drug business, judgment is affirmed, where: 1) a criminal defendant bears the burden of proving withdrawal from a conspiracy regardless of when the purported withdrawal took place; 2) allocating the burden to defendant does not violate the Due Process clause; 3) Congress did not address in 21 U.S.C. section 846 or 18 U.S.C. section 1962(d) the burden of proof for withdrawal, and thus the common law rule that defendant bears the burden of proving affirmative defenses remains; and 4) the burden of proof does not change even when withdrawal is the basis for a statute-of-limitations defense.

[01/09] US v. J.J.
In appeal by defendant, a juvenile charged with second degree murder and using a firearm during a crime of violence, district court's order granting the government's motion to transfer juvenile proceedings for adult prosecution is affirmed, where the district court: 1) did not abuse its discretion in assessing defendant's intellectual development by relying solely on lay testimony as a psychological evaluation is not a prerequisite to approving a transfer motion; 2) did not abuse its discretion in its evaluation of available treatment programs; and 3) did not violate Defendant’s due-process rights in presuming guilt for the purposes of the transfer decision.

[01/09] Castrijon-Garcia v. Holder
In petition for review of BIA decision holding that his conviction for simple kidnapping under is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude making him statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal, the petition is granted and the case is remanded to the BIA for further proceedings, where simple kidnapping under California Penal Code section 207(a) is not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude because it does not require an intent to injure, actual injury, or a special class of victims.

[01/09] US v. Huff
In appeal of ten month sentence following the revocation of defendant's supervised release, appeal is dismissed as moot, where: 1) a litigant who is unconditionally released from custody must show that she will, in fact, suffer collateral consequences from the supervised release revocation to present a live case or controversy; and 2) defendant has not argued that she will, in fact, suffer any collateral consequences as she was released on August 31, 2012.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can a person be guilty of drunk driving if he only had one drink?

What is the role of the federal government in criminal law?

Are grand jury proceedings secret?

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