Our criminal justice system is meant to protect defendants' rights. Many of our constitutional amendments were specifically written to guarantee certain rights for criminal defendants, including the right to due process of law, to have competent counsel, to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, to confront the evidence and witnesses against you and more.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a defendant's SUV was seized by the state after he was convicted of a drug crime. Many states and the federal government engage in asset seizures after drug and other arrests, often before a conviction has been obtained. All the government has to prove is that the assets in question can be tied to illegal activity -- either having been purchased with proceeds of a crime or used in the commission of it. So, what was the problem here?
An interesting question came before the U.S. Supreme Court recently. In Stuart v. Alabama, a woman was charged with DUI and criminally negligent homicide for rear-ending another driver's car, causing it to strike a tree and kill the driver. Prosecutors submitted a lab report to prove the woman was under the influence of alcohol, but they did not ask the scientist who performed the tests to testify. Under the Sixth Amendment, however, criminal defendants have the right to confront all of the prosecution's witnesses.
When Tyson Timbs of Indiana was convicted of selling a small amount of heroin in order to support his opioid addiction, he was sentenced to a year of home detention and five years of probation. The court could also have fined him up to $10,000, but chose not to. But Indiana law allows private law firms to intervene on behalf of the state, and one filed a civil forfeiture case and seized Timbs' $42,000 Land Rover.
The National Academies of Science released a comprehensive report in 2003 that examined the state of the science in lie detection. After reviewing nearly a century of scientific data and reports and visiting polygraph units run by government agencies, the NAS committee found that polygraphs were prone to both false positives and false negatives.
Rodney Class is a bit of a celebrity among 2nd Amendment advocates and constitutional strict constructionists. A military veteran with a concealed-carry permit from North Carolina, Class considers himself a defender of the constitution -- a "private attorney general" who seeks to hold judges accountable for failing to uphold the founding document.
The international nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch released a blockbuster report this week. It alleges that, in many cases federal law enforcement is tipping off state and local forces about information it may have learned by using constitutionally questionable practices. Such tips might not be admissible as evidence if brought before a court. Therefore, state and local police and prosecutors create false back stories for how they discovered the evidence.