Police also do not need a warrant to search or seize contraband "in plain site" when the officer has a right to be present. Probable cause to seize property exists when facts and circumstances known to the officer would lead a reasonable person to believe that the item is contraband, is stolen, or constitutes evidence of a crime.
When a search warrant is in play, police generally must search only for the items described in the warrant. However, any contraband or evidence of other crimes they come across may, for the most part, be seized as well. Should evidence prove to have resulted from an illegal search, it becomes subject to the "exclusionary rule" and cannot be used against the defendant in court. After hearing arguments from the prosecuting and defense attorneys, the judge decides whether evidence should be excluded. Probable cause refers to the amount and quality of information required to arrest someone, to search or seize private property in many cases, or to charge someone with a crime.
Legal cause to arrest, search, or seize property exists when facts and circumstances known to the police officer would lead a reasonable person to believe:. Probable cause is perhaps one of the most important concepts when it comes to criminal law. However, determining whether actions by law enforcement were supported by probable cause often depends on the unique facts of your case.
To learn more about probable cause, or to discuss your particular case, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer near you. Find your Lawyer Explore Resources For Learn About the Law. Legal Forms. District Courts.
The judges in the district courts are either U. Magistrate Judges the lowest level of federal judges or U. District Court Judges.
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All trials of federal criminal cases take place in the U. Certain minor offenses may be tried before a U. Magistrate Judge.
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Otherwise, all federal criminal trials are conducted by a single U. District Judge. At trial, the judges rule on all questions of law and evidence. If there is no jury, they also determine whether the evidence is sufficient to convict. The sentencing of convicted persons is also the responsibility of the judges at the District Court level. The power of the District Judges is greater than that of the Magistrate Judges, and, in many instances, District Court judges determine what actions the Magistrates may perform. For example, all extradition hearings occur in the District Courts, but the rules established by the District Court Judges will determine whether the extradition hearing may be held before a Magistrate rather than a District Judge.
In addition to conducting trials, the judges of the District Court have authority to issue warrants of arrest and warrants for search and seizure, to grant provisional liberty of a person accused of crime, and to rule on all legal matters prior to trial. The United States Courts of Appeals. At the next level are the U. Courts of Appeals, also called the Circuit Courts of Appeals.
There are thirteen Circuit Courts of Appeals. Persons convicted of federal crimes have a right to appeal to the Circuit Court having jurisdiction. They will conduct a more extensive review of decisions of law, rather than findings of fact. For example, the prosecutor may not appeal a judgment of acquittal. Appeals in the Circuit Courts are heard by a panel of three Appellate Court judges. In very rare circumstances, the decision of the three-judge panel may be reviewed by all the judges for the Circuit.
At the appellate level, the attorneys for the prosecution and defense submit documents to the court outlining the law applicable to the facts of the case and the reasons why the court should find in their favor. The court then considers the case and renders a decision. The United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is composed of nine judges. Except in unusual circumstances, the Supreme Court acts as an appellate court, reviewing the decisions of the U. Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Courts of the various states.
Decisions of the Supreme Court are not subject to further appeal. In criminal cases, there is generally no right to appeal to the Supreme Court. Instead, the person seeking review by the Supreme Court must file an application for review with the Court, explaining why the legal issue in his or her case is important enough for the court to consider. The Supreme Court has not reviewed an extradition case in more than fifty years. Procedure in Federal Criminal Cases. The Investigation and Bringing of Formal Charges.
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When one of the federal investigative agencies believes that it has evidence of a violation of United States law, the investigative agents will present their findings to the Office of the U. Attorney in their district. One of the Assistant U. Attorneys will review the case and question the agent about it in detail to determine whether the evidence shows that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.
If the evidence is not sufficient to establish probable cause, the Assistant U. Attorney AUSA may ask the agents to continue their investigation, in the alternative, he or she may decide that the evidence should be presented to a grand jury and that the grand jury should continue the investigation of the case. If the AUSA determines that there is probable cause, he or she will present the evidence to the grand jury and ask that they vote on a proposed criminal charge. This charge is called an indictment. However, in some instances, there is insufficient time to present the case to the grand jury because of an urgent need to arrest the person believed to have committed the offense.
In these instances, the AUSA will ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant based on a sworn statement called a complaint, which sets out the essential facts of the offense charged. The complaint, or sworn statements filed with the complaint, must also set out evidence sufficient to establish probable cause to believe that the specific crime charged was committed by the person charged with that crime. If, after a careful review, the judge determines that there is sufficient evidence to meet the probable cause standard, the judge will issue a warrant for the arrest of that person. If a person is arrested pursuant to this procedure, the AUSA must thereafter present the case to the grand jury and obtain an indictment.
A grand jury consists of between 16 to 23 citizens who have the duty, after reviewing the evidence, to vote on a proposed criminal charge. Generally, the grand jury hears evidence only from the government. A target of an investigation i. This seldom occurs.
In order for a person to be indicted, at least 12 members of the grand jury must find that there is probable cause to believe that the person or persons to be charged committed the crime or crimes to be charged. While the grand jury is deliberating on whether to return an indictment, i. That can be done only at trial. A federal prosecutor does not have the authority to issue a subpoena ordering a person to give testimony or to produce evidence in his or her possession.
The grand jury has the authority to issue such subpoenas, and it therefore has substantial investigative powers. In practice, the AUSA or other federal prosecutor usually issues subpoenas in the name of the grand jury. However, the grand jury can subpoena additional witnesses of its own volition. When a witness is subpoenaed before the grand jury, the AUSA generally asks the questions although in many instances the grand jurors also question witnesses. A witness before a grand jury, like a witness at a trial, may not be compelled to give evidence that would tend to show that he or she has committed a criminal offense.
As discussed above, this right is referred to as the Fifth Amendment privilege or the privilege against self-incrimination. Grand jury proceedings are recorded verbatim by a stenographer and are secret.
It is a crime for a prosecutor or a member of the grand jury to discuss grand jury proceedings in public. Also, a prosecutor may not disclose grand jury information to another prosecutor or investigating officer, unless that prosecutor or officer is also involved in the same criminal investigation.
Information gathered by a grand jury may be disclosed only upon the order of a federal court. Such permission is rarely given. Of course, evidence obtained by the grand jury may be used later at trial, if the grand jury formally indicts one or more persons for a criminal offense. In complex crimes such as most bank frauds, the involvement of a grand jury from the beginning is essential to an effective investigation.
In such cases, the prosecutor and investigator will work very closely together from the start of the investigation. The Arrest of the Defendant.