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Criminal Procedure

Crime Control And Due Process

Criminal procedure places at odds two concepts dearly cherished by most Americans: public safety and order, and liberty. Accordingly, legal scholars have identified two opposing perspectives on criminal justice: the Crime Control model versus the Due Process model. The former places a premium on public safety, and accordingly values the interests of the public (and of the state) over those of the criminal defendant. The latter, as its name suggests, puts the primary emphasis on the due process provisions of the Constitution, and thus favors the rights of the accused. In the past, the Crime Control viewpoint has been associated with political conservatives, and the Due Process perspective with liberals, but these distinctions have tended to blur in the 1990s. Hence in the instance of the Branch Davidians in 1993, an action in which the FBI engaged in a standoff with cult members at their Waco, Texas, compound, many conservative commentators took the side of the Branch Davidians.

Dissenting in Shaughnessy v. United States (1953), Justice Robert H. Jackson held that due process ultimately benefits the public as a whole: "It is the best insurance for the Government itself against those blunders which leave lasting stains on a system of justice...." In the same year that Jackson wrote this opinion, Earl Warren became Chief Justice, ushering in an era of increased sensitivity to the rights of the accused. It was during this period, for instance, that the Court extended the Exclusionary Rule--applicable to the federal government ever since 1914--to the states as well. Again, because of the larger number of state and local cases than federal ones, this decision (Mapp v. Ohio [1961]) had far-reaching effects. Likewise the decision in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) opened the way for significant change as well.

The question as to whether the reading of Miranda rights constituted more than a mere formal change, however, remained open to debate. Likewise the differing views--Due Process and Crime Control--continued to do battle in the nation's courts. With the appointment of conservative judges, particularly under the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the Court moved toward a Crime Control model. This coincided with increasing public concern and alarm over the spread of crime.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesCriminal Procedure - Contrasting Perspectives On The Legal System, Four Constitutional Cornerstones, Habeas Corpus And Other Guarantees, From Probable Cause To Appeal: The Criminal Procedure Cycle