Archive for January, 2011

Tasering the Fourth Amendment: What’s Everyone Complaining About . . . It’s Not Like You Got Shot?

January 27, 2011 1 comment

by Christopher Dize

By now, everyone is probably familiar with the device. It’s small, sort of squarish, sci-fi-looking, make a clicking sound when discharged . . . .

Remember the kid who cried, “Don’t tase me, bro!” at a John Kerry speech a few years ago . . . there was some clicking and then a lot of “Aaaggghhhhh!!!!”

In the United States, Tasers continue to grow in popularity with law enforcement.  As police tools, they are revered by officers for their ability to subdue suspects without causing injury.  Not just because it’s fun to zap bad guys and mouthy hecklers.

It is increasingly questionable, however, whether Tasers actually increase our safety without zapping too many of our Constitutional rights in the process.

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How To Read Cases In Law School

January 21, 2011 1 comment

Each case or written opinion is comprised of different sections and components.

A well-written opinion usually begins by outlining the legal issue(s) followed by the background facts pertaining to the situation in controversy.  After these two sections comes the procedural posture of the case, which simply means the case’s history with regards to how the courts have ruled on the matter.  Then, the court delves into the “discussion” or legal analysis of the issues.  Last, there is a brief conclusion followed by the court’s ultimate ruling.

Well-written opinions will have headings for each different section.  Unfortunately, however, some cases are not structured as neatly and require the reader to delineate each section on his/her own.  Initially, this may not be as simple as it sounds but over time it becomes second nature.

Eventually, the reader will recognize where one section ends and the next begins.  For example, legal issue sentences usually begin with the word “whether.”  Thus, when the word “whether” appears, you should ask yourself if it is framing the legal issue for the opinion.  If so, you should mark it.  You should also realize that once the legal issue has been stated, a different section should follow.  Continue this practice until you have reached the end of the opinion.

Sections (usually in this order):

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5 Law School Tips For Entering Students

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

If you’re thinking about going to law school and you’re looking for some tips on ways to improve your chances of doing well, consider the 5 tips below.  These are tips I’ve put together from my personal experiences in law school and the experiences of some of my law school peers.

Just because these tips have worked for us doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll work for you.  Nonetheless, these are still pretty straightforward tips that will never hurt!  Ultimately, you’ll decide what works best for you.  Until then, consider the following.

1) Read The Assignments!

I know, it sounds really obvious, but it can’t be stressed enough.  Read the assignments in their entirety!

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Hudson v. Michigan: A Pattern of Botched Police Raids?

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

In 2006, the Supreme Court decided Hudson v. Michigan, which involved a violation of the knock-and-announce requirement (this rule posits that absent exigent circumstances or advanced no-knock authority, police officers must announce their presence prior to executing a warrant).  Back in 1998, Detroit police officers acting pursuant to a valid search warrant arrived at defendant’s home to execute a search for drugs and firearms.  Upon arrival, the officers announced their presence and that they had a search warrant.  “Three to five seconds” later the officers entered the home and found both drugs and a loaded firearm.  Defendant was arrested and subsequently charged with cocaine possession with intent to deliver and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Defendant argued that because the brief wait time of three to five seconds rendered the entry premature, the knock-and-announce requirement was breached in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.  Thus, defendant contended that all of the evidence obtained should be excluded under the exclusionary rule (the rule that excludes illegally seized evidence).  Defendant relied upon Wilson v. Arkansas (1995), which upheld common law principles that law enforcement personnel should knock and announce their presence prior to entering a residence.  Moreover, the Court also held that the knock-and-announce requirement is factored into the “reasonableness” inquiry under the Fourth Amendment (e.g. officer safety may permit officers to enter without first knocking and announcing).

Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Hudson began by explaining that suppression/exclusion has always been the last resort and that determining whether suppression is required involves a balancing process.  The balance includes the benefits of deterrence of officer misconduct vs. the substantial social costs to society (e.g. criminals going free).  When deterrence outweighs the social costs, courts should exclude evidence obtained in violation of the knock-and-announce requirement.

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