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Custom «Legal Aspects» Sample Essay

Custom «Legal Aspects» Sample Essay

Fact Pattern #1

Issue

The first issue to be resolved by the Supreme Court of Montana was whether the District Court made a mistake refusing to grant Bassett’s application that sought to suppress the evidence seized by an officer of the police. This seizure was executed during a search that was conducted in Bassett’s home subsequent to the reports provided by the firefighters that they had seen illegal imports there. The search was conducted without a warrant.

The second issue before the Supreme Court of Montana was whether the District Court was wrong in its denial of the application submitted by Basset seeking to overturn his statement. In this statement, Basset was incriminating himself. It resulted directly from the seizure of the evidence, which was made without a warrant.

Rule of Law

The case at the District instance majorly depended on the use of stare decisis. This involved the employment of the Court’s judgment in State v. Loh (1996), 275 Mont 460, 914 P.2d 254, and decision in State v. Bell (1987), 108 Wash. 2d 193, 737 P.2d 254 by the Supreme Court of Washington. These cases offer understanding of the issue that constitutes an illegal search and confiscation as well as ways of their implementation.

There was also application of the United States Constitution’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and the Article II, Section 10 and 11 of the Constitution of the State of Montana. These laws provide the rules that seek to protect the citizens from illegal searches and seizures. In addition, this legislation offers definitions of where, when and how the searches and seizure should be conducted. They also reinforce the individual right to privacy in a free society, offered especially by Section 10.

Analysis

There are various factors to be considered while taking any decisions regarding the first issue, such as whether the District Court made a mistake refusing to grant Bassett’s application that sought to suppress the evidence seized by the police officer resulting from a search conducted without a warrant. First, there ought to be a better understanding of the facts that comprise a search and seizure as well as conditions that would need a warrant to be acquired. Searches and confiscations are conducted when an individual, mainly a police officer, enters the premises or other buildings belonging to another individual on suspicion of the commitment of an illegal action. These searches and confiscation have various requirements, such as obtaining of a search permit before the search. Consequently, the police officer needs to submit an application to a court of capable authority and provide the judge with data on the sensible suspicion of the commitment or likelihood of the crime occurrence by a person. Upon the receipt of the search permit, the police officer ought to present it to the owner of the property to be searched. The officer may then proceed with the search. There are, conversely, numerous exemptions where a search permit is not compulsory. For example, there are cases in which the police officer has rational suspicion that there would be an execution of a wrongdoing and that the application of a search permit would result in the wastage of time. It would be too late if the police officer tried to obtain a search permit. In addition, in cases of police pursuits, an officer may be forced to search a property which a criminal has entered or is being concealed. Another exception is that when the item or property to be searched and seized is open and visible to anyone.

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In this case, there was no indication or need for the conduct of a search and seizure of Bassett’s house and property, marijuana paraphernalia by Wingert. The reason is that there was no risk of the immediate commission of an offence or danger that was posed to the public by marijuana. Moreover, in case the house is burnt open and the fire is completely extinguished, it would be considered that there was no urgency for the search or seizure. Wingert even confessed that there was no emergency in that situation. Bassett, however, could not contend that his property was searched and seized illegally due to the element of openness of the marijuana plants However, there was no initial intent of the firefighters to search the house for any illegal substances and elements. With the marijuana pots and plants being in the view, one would not regard it as a required warrant for their search.

Concerning the privacy issues, there was no infringement of Bassett’s privacy. The reason was the open state of his house, in accordance with a free society. Bassett, after calling the fire department for assistance, had also granted the firefighters access to his house. This is one of the elements that constitute the legality of a search and confiscation. In State v. Loh (1996), a police officer is required to be present in the residence legally for the plain view exception to relate or be used in any case. This cannot be argued by Bassett since officer Wingert was at the place due to the report he had obtained from Lee Buller. Consequently, this matter is considered to be of the interest to the police, and thus to Wingert. His presence in the house was, therefore, legal. Consequently, Bassett had no anticipations of privacy, in compliance with the Fourth Amendment, due to the permission access he gave to the firefighters and the open condition of the burnt house. It cannot be argued that the firefighters were a distinct entity from the police department as held in the case of State vs. Bell.

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Due to the legality of the search and seizure conducted by officer Wingert, the claim and application for the Supreme Court to suppress the incriminating evidence by Bassett cannot be granted. It would be based on a misplaced notion. Bassett waived his Miranda rights and should, therefore, be held to account for the information that he had provided. His admission of growing the cannabis sativa plant is self-incriminating, but there is no illegality in this case. Bassett could not tag it on the legality or illegality of the search and seizure.

Conclusion

The case contained various matters that sought to indicate the legality or illegality of the search and seizure of Bassett’s home and marijuana plants. The key requirement for the legality of a search and seizure is the obtaining of a warrant. Further, certain searches may require the use of the warrant while others exempt it. The situations where the warrants are not necessary include those where a police officer bears sufficient suspicion of the commitment of an offence, in cases of pursuits, and instances where they are explicitly allowed access to the property. In this case, the corresponding requirements were not explicitly adhered to, but rather indirectly complied with. For example, through the firefighters’ access to the house, the permission for the search was protracted to the police. This was executed after the Buller’s call to notify Wingert of the discovery of marijuana. It can be observed that the lack of urgency could not make the search and seizure illegal. The ultimate result in this case is that the search and confiscation of Bassett’s home by Wingert was legal. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution concerning the safeguard of individuals from unlawful searches and confiscations, and the Article II, Sections 10 and 11 of the Montana Constitution were not dishonored as Bassett asserts. Consequently, the incriminating evidence offered to the police by Bassett could not be qualified as illegal or baseless. The application of Bassett for the suppression of his self-incriminating evidence could not be granted.

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Fact Pattern #2

Issues

The main issue in this case is determining if, in a trial of arson murder, the testimony given by the ex-wife of the defendant could be admissible in accordance with the provisions of Connecticut Evidence Code, section 4-5(b). The testimony included the defendant’s burning of their house trailer for the purpose of getting insurance money. The testimony also stated that the defendant had told the wife that he had previously committed arson for hire. Moreover, in the mid-1990s, the defendant threatened the owner to burn their home. The defendant alleged the marital communications in immunity made this information privileged. 

The other issue to resolve is whether the court made right decision while admitting this evidence. The respondent further alleged that the court had used the evidence presented by his former wife to show that there was absence of accident and that he had set the fire intentionally. He asserted that the evidence was not appropriate and did not have any connection with the case. Furthermore, the defendant claimed that the testimony offered by Ramsey was not permissible inclination evidence because he had never stated that he had accidentally started the fire. Instead, his son confessed that he had started the fire.

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The third issue to be determined by the court is whether the previous misconduct evidence was prejudicial. According to the argument of the respondent, even if the evidence was relevant as provided by section 4-5(b) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, the probative significance of the previous misconduct evidence had been prevailed by the detrimental impact.

Rule of Law

One of the rules of law that the court is attempting to decide is the law against admittance of the propensity evidence. This is provided under the Connecticut Code of Evidence, section 4-5. In addition, it is inclusive of the marital communications privilege.

The other rule of law that the court attempted to resolve is the improper allowing of opinion evidence, provided in section 3 (a) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence.

Analysis

Evidence of the previous misconduct is not permissible while proving that a respondent is guilty of the offenses on which they are indicted. This is a general rule. Thus, such evidence should not be used on infer that the defendant was a bad personality of an inclination towards criminal behavior. In compliance with this case, the evidence given by the former wife of the defendant, stating that he had earlier burnt their trailer house in order to get money, should not be admitted. This also includes more statements of the defendant’s former wife specifying that he had previously, on many occasions, helped other people burn their own houses for the purpose of claiming insurance money. Moreover, he was paid for those actions. This evidence has a prejudicial effect on the case of the defendant, and the court will deem him as capable of committing this particular offense he is indicted with since he has previously committed similar offenses. 

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On the other hand, there is other evidence of offenses that is closely linked with the main crime through the circumstances, design, motive, or innate peculiarity. This evidence that the execution of the collateral offense has the tendency of direct provision of the main crime execution should be admitted. The instructions of the policy do not have any application to prove that any criminal activity has the tendency of direct proving that the accused person is not innocent of the specific crime, which he is actually accused of. This serves as an exception to the permissibility of similar facts evidence or uncharged misconduct. In this case, the court had admitted the evidence of the defendant’s former wife that he had burnt the house for the purpose of receiving insurance compensation. In this case, the application of the section 4-5(a) of the Evidence Code of the Connecticut state should be applied, which provides that the evidence of acts, wrongs, or criminal actions of an individual are admissible proving the bad character or the criminal propensities of that person.

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The purpose of admitting such evidence is to prove the intention, identity, malice, common plan, or scheme. It also aims at confirming the lack of mistake or accident or facilitating the corroboration of the crucial testimony from the prosecution. This rule was applied in the case of Young v. Rabideau 821 F. 2d 373. This evidence may also be used for dual purpose in order to prove that a happening resulted from an intentional action and not from an accident. This fact may be used to prove that the defendant did not accidentally burn the house, but he did it intentionally. According to the facts provided by the prosecution, the defendant was the only person who was properly dressed. Moreover, he was wearing his shoes while the other people in the house were wearing fled with slippers and some of them were bare footed. This is a circumstantial implication that the defendant had prepared to flee from the fire, unlike the rest of the victims. The case of State v, Tucker 181 Conn. 406, 415-416, 435 A.2d 986 (1980) may also be used as a reference to prove the existing connection between the present charged offense and the previous criminal activities.

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Regarding the issue connected with the permissibility of the evidence from the expert witness, the jury is mandated to determine the trustworthiness of a witness. Expert witnesses are, thus, not allowable to testify to the reliability of a witness, they are just allowed presenting the facts to the jury who will provide credibility definition. They are, however, allowed to express their opinion regarding a particular issue if their viewpoint is necessary for the jury or the court in order to understand the technicalities involved with the particular evidence such as the pattern of the fire. For this reason, the opinion evidence provided by the expert evidence was necessary because it aided the court to comprehend the details of the testimony. The case of State v. Finan, 275 Conn. 60, 66, 881 A.2d 187 (2005), additionally, explains this point. The court was, thus, acting properly while admitting the evidence from Mr. McGurk. The reason is that the jury and the court may have reasonably required the evidence for the evaluation of the viability of the defendant’s theory stating that his son had accidentally started the fire.

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Regarding the issue of probative value, it may be argued that the probative significance of the evidence provided exceeds the prejudicial impact. The reason is that it covered a continuum of period that was near the fire. In addition, the court had also limited the use of the evidence in a way that prevented the jury from applying it in an inappropriate manner as tendency evidence. There was, consequently, no prejudicial effect allowing evidence of the former misconducts. Moreover, the evidence was crucial while proving the intention of the defendant and that it was not the accidental crime. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the defendant raised a number of issues in order to determine the appeal against the decision of the lower court. Some of those issues included the court’s admission of propensity evidence, admittance of the evidence opinion of an expert witness and allowing the evidence of his former wife. The court argued that the proof of earlier misconduct was relevant and permissible because the particulars were similar and very proximal to the current case. The evidence of the expert witness was vital while helping the jury and the court to comprehend the details of the facts of the case or the evidence provided. Regarding the evidence of the former wife, it amounted to the evidence of the previous misconduct, which, as discussed above, was important for determining whether the accused was guilty of the counts against him. The evidence was not prejudicial, since its probative importance was more than the probable prejudicial effect. Consequently, the court did not make any error while finding the suspect liable for arson and murder.

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