The Failure of the Criminal Procedure Revolution

The Failure of the Criminal Procedure Revolution

The Failure of the Criminal Procedure Revolution

The Failure of the Criminal Procedure Revolution


"In a series of landmark decisions in the early 1960s, the United States Supreme Court revolutionized police procedures by imposing stricter requirements such as search warrants, Miranda warnings, and the exclusion of improperly obtained evidence from trial. Today, these innovations remain largely intact and form the basis of current American criminal procedure law, despite considerable criticism and an increasing conservative domination of the Court. But despite the survival of the Warren Court doctrine, everyone involved in the system - police, prosecutors, crime victims, academic commentators, and judges, including the Supreme Court Justices themselves - regard the current body of Supreme Court law in this area as a failure. In The Failure of the Criminal Procedure Revolution, Craig M. Bradley persuasively argues that no shift in ideology, no commitment of resources, and no refinement of Supreme Court jurisprudence would resolve the inadequacies of the current system. These problems arose from a constitutional system that has allowed the United States to develop its rules of criminal procedure on a piecemeal, case-by-case basis, rather than through a unified code of criminal procedure, as other countries have done. Only the United States expects its police to follow a set of rules so cumbersome, and so complex, that one area of criminal procedure alone - search and seizure - requires a four-volume treatise to explicate. Bradley proposes that the United States, should, in keeping with the international trend, regulate police procedures through a comprehensive and nationally applicable code. He examines why the present system is a failure and how other countries have developed their criminal procedure law. He further argues that a national code would be constitutional and outlines what its features should be, how it would function, and what alternative approaches are possible and practicable. The Failure of the Criminal Procedure Revolution is a groundbreaking effort to advocate systematic and essential reform in America's court System. It will be of compelling interest to students and scholars in law, political science, and criminology." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


"Criminal procedure" means the entire range of activities associated with bringing a criminal defendant to trial. It begins with investigation by the police, including searches of houses, cars, and so on, and lineups and photo displays of potential suspects; it proceeds through arrest, interrogation, arraignment, preliminary hearing, indictment by grand jury, trial, sentencing, appeal, and collateral challenges to conviction. The "criminal procedure revolution" refers to a series of constitutional decisions by the United States Supreme Court during the 1960s that "revolutionized" the criminal procedures of the states. For example, the Court required that unconstitutionally seized evidence must be excluded from state criminal trials, that police must warn criminal suspects of their constitutional rights before interrogating them (the Miranda warnings), and that indigent defendants must be given free counsel at any criminal trial that might lead to a prison sentence.

At the time these requirements were imposed, criticism of the Court's rulings was vehement. Many complained that the courts were "handcuffing the police." A rising crime rate was blamed on the Court's rulings, and Richard Nixon made the appointment of "law and order" Supreme Court Justices a major issue in his successful 1968 presidential campaign.

After Nixon had appointed four Justices, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. Liberal critics of the "Burger Court" complained that constitutional guarantees of civil liberties were being "gutted" and that a reemergence of "police state" tactics by law enforcement authorities was imminent.

The dire predictions of both extremes have proved inaccurate. For example, the police have been able to adapt to giving the Miranda warnings to suspects without a major diminution in confessions. And, contrary to early expectations, the Burger Court did not overrule . . .

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