Civil Rights in the United States

By Alison Reppy | Go to book overview

Chapter VIII
CRIMINAL LAW AND THE CONSTITUTION

THE volume of criminal cases which turn on some issue of constitutional law appears to be increasing both in numbers and scope. In the disposition of those cases which reach the Supreme Court, the general rule is to leave the administration of state criminal laws to the states, unless such administration is so outrageous as to violate a fundamental right included in the first ten amendments, and thus invoke the protection of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.1 In the period now under review, the grist coming from our state and federal courts has produced important criminal cases involving difficult constitutional issues which have been presented to the Supreme Court for solution. Among these may be included decisions involving indictment and information, waiver of venue, extradition, the right to a fair and public trial, the right to trial by jury, the right to counsel in non-capital cases, the right of confrontation, evidence, including wiretapping, selfincrimination, search and seizure, confessions, double jeopardy and sentencing. In order to obtain a clear view of these developments, we shall consider each topic in substantially the order set out above.

A. Indictment and Information . -- Under the Fifth Amendment "No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on the presentment of a Grand Jury. . . ." Rule 7(b) of the new Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that:

An offense which may be punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or at hard labor may be prosecuted by information if the

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1
See the excellent discussion of this problem in an article by Austin W. Scott Jr. , "The Supreme Court's Control Over State and Federal Criminal Juries" 34 Ga. L. Rev.577 ( 1949).

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