With the rise in crime in many parts of the world, and the cutting edge of technology, it is more possible than ever to bring justice to society. However, with increased privacy legislation and provisional jurisdiction, whether investigating crime is worthwhile is discussed herein.
The Constitution of the United States detail the rights and responsibility of all people to one another, and this also covers search and seizure. According to the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement officers are required to obtain search warrants, in order to use evidence and investigate criminal activity. Public and private surveillance is protected under the Fourth Amendment, unless carried out by the law enforcement officer themselves (Ohm, 2012). However, there are certain exceptions to this search warrant requirement, as outlined in the Fourth Amendment.
If the individual or individuals in question give consent to law enforcement officers to search themselves or the scene of the crime, a search warrant is not needed. This consent must be voluntary, and even if the individual or individuals are requested by law enforcement officers to comply with a search, they should be given the opportunity to consent or not to consent.
If a law enforcement officer deems evidence as necessary to the case, and the item or items are within sight, the law enforcement officer can use the items as evidence without a search warrant. However, these items need to be deemed as vital to the case.
Any nearby environment in proximity to the scene of the crime, whether it be local parks, gardens, or even vehicles of the suspects, can be searched without a warrant, since most are public property, if not crucial to the case. There are also other exceptions that are deemed justifiable under the law, with the expert opinion of the law enforcement officers in charge of the crime scene.
As a legal principle, the exclusionary rule states that any evidence that has been used against the suspects without their consent is in violation of constitutional rights, according to constitutional law, and cannot be used in a court of law. This ties in with the exception of consent, as aforementioned. Often used as a defence by suspects, it poses certain problems if used to the individual or individuals advantage, as without evidence, technically, a crime cannot be proved to have been committed. Therefore, there are certain limitations to the exclusionary rule.
If a private detective or crime investigator identifies and produces evidence in a certain case, it can be used without the express consent from the suspects, as the exclusionary rule only applies to law enforcement officers. In this case, it is used as evidence to the crime, and deemed admissible by law. Furthermore, the suspects cannot use the exclusionary rule to their advantage, if and when all other evidence points to their guilt in a certain crime. This allows for law enforcement officers to carry out the case and use evidence against suspects for a clear ruling.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
Nevertheless, if law enforcement officers use illegal means to gather incriminating evidence against suspects involved in a crime, this evidence being known as ‘Fruit of the Poisonous Tree’, is not acceptable as evidence in a case by a judge or jury.
Evidence is deemed as ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’, by reasoning that if the source of the evidence, being the tree, is tainted, then any evidence extracted from this source, being the fruit, is also tainted as well. However, this doctrine is also subject to certain exceptions, including if the evidence was collected by crime scene evidence as necessary to the case, and or if the identification of the evidence was inevitable to the case; then the evidence is admissible against the suspects in a court of law. Therefore, crime scene investigators can collect and identify certain evidence, if it is critical to the solving of a crime.
Modern Crime Labs
In most crime laboratories today, there are a range of cutting edge technology that make several services available to crime scene investigators. In state and federal run crime labs, there are many forms of biometric analysis services, including DNA index systems, latent printing, facial recognition, and many more. This allows investigators to identify criminals according to national databases, track suspect links, and record victims prints.
In addition, there are different services related to forensic response, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capabilities, photography and digital imaging, and other services. These allow investigators to identify technical hazards, prevent further crimes, and supply physical evidence in a court of law.
Furthermore, scientific analyses, such as forensic aspects of investigation, trace evidence and chemical identification allows investigators to locate suspects who have escaped, use evidence to identify additional leads in an investigation, and identify harmful and dangerous substances, such as materials used in the making of explosives. Therefore, a crime scene is a critical element of criminal investigations and where forensic science begins (Kelty, Julian, and Robertson, 2011).
The CSI Effect
However, such modern technology can often influence jurors in compelling ways, which is known as the CSI effect. Such scientific proof can have both positive and negative effects on convincing both the public and those in the court of law. However, research shows that the CSI effect has an indirect effect on conviction in the case of circumstantial evidence (Kim, Barak, and Shelton, 2009).
In addition, the popularity of the television show ‘CSI’ and other related television shows have added to the effect of forensic science becoming the ‘be all and end all’ of all evidence identified at a crime scene and provided in a court of law. Although only recently identified as have some effect in court cases when such forensic evidence is produced, jurors have been known to convict on such circumstantial evidence alone, and it has become an increasing trend. However, most jurors have defended their views as completely rendering a decision based on facts, not evidence.
As crime investigation embraces technology advances, is it vital that investigators adhere to legal obligations and use evidence as a supplement in any case, basing decisions on actual findings and provable facts. Whenever a crime scene investigator identifies evidence in a case, it should be carefully and logically analysed for clues and should assist in proving a case. Law enforcement officers should also assist crime scene investigators during a case, and aid in the investigation only when necessary. For future research and criminal convictions, all vested power in an investigation should be used to locate and render decisions according to the case at hand.
Kelty, S., Julian, R., and Robertson, J. (2011). Professionalism in Crime Scene Investigation: the Seven Key Attributes of Top Crime Scene Examiners. Forensic Science Policy & Management, 2(4), 175-186.
Kim, S., Barak, G. and Shelton, D. (2009). Examining the “CSI-Effect” in the Cases of Circumstantial Evidence and Eyewitness Testimony: Multivariate and Path Analyses. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(5), 452-460.
Ohm, P. (2012). The Fourth Amendment in a World without Privacy. Mississippi Law Journal, 81(5), 1308-1322.