Police Definitions

Entrapment (13,16)

Entrapment is the act of a law enforcement agent inducing a person to commit an offense which the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit. In many jurisdictions, entrapment is a possible defense against criminal guilt. The entrapment defense in the United States has evolved mainly through case law. Two competing tests exist for determining whether entrapment has taken place, known as the “subjective” and “objective” tests. There seems to be great debate regarding the exact situations in which this applies. The Wikipedia article on entrapment has some great examples for further reading.

Obstruction of Justice (95)

The crime of obstruction of justice includes crimes committed by judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and elected officials in general. It is misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance in the conduct of the office. Most commonly it is prosecuted as a crime for perjury by a non governmental official primarily because of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors and attorneys general however commit obstruction of justice when they fail to prosecute judges and other government officials for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office.

Modern obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdictions, refers to the crime of offering interference of any sort to the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors, or other (usually government) officials. Often, no actual investigation or substantiated suspicion of a specific incident need exist to support a charge of obstruction of justice. Common law jurisdictions other than the United States tend to use the wider offense of Perverting the course of justice.

Generally, obstruction charges are laid when it is discovered that a person questioned in an investigation, who is not a suspect, has lied to the investigating officers. However, in most common law jurisdictions, the right to remain silent allows any person who is questioned by police merely to refuse to answer questions posed by an investigator without giving any reason for doing so. (In such a case, the investigators may subpoena the witness to give testimony under oath in court) It is not relevant if the person lied to protect a suspect (such as setting up a false alibi, even if the suspect is in fact innocent) or to hide from an investigation of their own activities (such as to hide his involvement in another crime). Obstruction charges can also be laid if a person alters or destroys physical evidence, even if he was under no compulsion at any time to produce such evidence.

Search and Seizure (95)

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures citizens’ right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures …” The amendment goes on to set forth the conditions under which a warrant may be issued: “no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The text of the amendment is brief, and most of the law determining what constitutes an unlawful search and seizure is found in court rulings. The general rule under the U.S. Constitution is that a valid warrant is required for a valid search. There are, however, several exceptions to this rule.

Exceptions to the rule include:

The owner of the property may voluntarily consent to search.

When the individual does not possess a “reasonable expectation to privacy” this occurs in incidents when property is visable to the public i.e. writing on the envelope of a piece of mail.

Automobile exception – don’t put anything in your car you don’t want to police to see.

Exigent Circumstances – cases in which the police believe the evidence will be destroyed or removed prior to obtaining a warrant.

Each state has their own provisions regarding search and seizure. Those provisions cannot reduce the protections offered by the U.S. Constitution, but they can provide additional protections such that a search deemed “reasonable” under the U.S. Constitution might nonetheless be unreasonable under the law of a particular state.

The primary remedy in illegal search cases is known as the “exclusionary rule”. This means that any evidence obtained through an illegal search is excluded and cannot be used against the defendant at his or her trial. There are some narrow exceptions to this rule. For instance, if police officers acted in good faith–perhaps pursuant to a warrant that turned out to be invalid, but that the officers had believed valid at the time of the search–evidence may be admitted.

RICO Act (96)

The RICO Act is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. RICO was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Pub.L. 91-452, 84 Stat. 922, enacted October 15, 1970). RICO is codified as Chapter 96 of Title 18 of the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. § 19611968. While its intended use was to prosecute The Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its application has been more widespread.

It has been speculated that the name and acronym were selected in a sly reference to the movie Little Caesar, which featured a notorious gangster named Rico. The original drafter of the bill, G. Robert Blakey, refused to confirm or deny this.

Under RICO, a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.”

When the U.S. Attorney decides to indict someone under RICO, he or she has the option of seeking a pre-trial restraining order or injunction to temporarily seize a defendant’s assets and prevent the transfer of potentially forfeitable property, as well as require the defendant to put up a performance bond. This provision was placed in the law because the owners of Mafia-related shell corporations often absconded with the assets. An injunction and/or performance bond ensures that there is something to seize in the event of a guilty verdict.

In many cases, the threat of a RICO indictment can force defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, in part because the seizure of assets would make it difficult to pay a defense attorney. Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court, as it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.

There is also a provision for private parties to sue. A “person damaged in his business or property” can sue one or more “racketeers.” The plaintiff must prove the existence of a “criminal enterprise.” The defendant(s) are not the enterprise; in other words, the defendant(s) and the enterprise are not one and the same. There must be one of four specified relationships between the defendant(s) and the enterprise. A civil RICO action, like many lawsuits based on federal law, can be filed in state or federal court.

Under the law, racketeering activity means:

Although some of the RICO predicate acts are extortion and blackmail, one of the most successful applications of the RICO laws has been the ability to indict or sanction individuals for their behavior and actions committed against witnesses and victims in alleged retaliation or retribution for cooperating with law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

Violations of the RICO laws can be alleged in cases where civil lawsuits or criminal charges are brought against individuals or corporations in retaliation for said individuals or corporations working with law enforcement, or against individuals or corporations who have sued or filed criminal charges against a defendant.

Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) laws can be applied in an attempt to curb alleged abuses of the legal system by individuals or corporations who utilize the courts as a weapon to retaliate against whistle blowers, victims, or to silence another’s speech. RICO could be alleged if it can be shown that lawyers and/or their clients conspired and collaborated to concoct fictitious legal complaints solely in retribution and retaliation for themselves having been brought before the courts.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Modern obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdictions, refers to the crime of offering interference of any sort to the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors, or other (usually government) officials. Often, no actual investigation or substantiated suspicion of a specific incident need exist to support a charge of obstruction of justice. Common law jurisdictions other than the United States tend to use the wider offense of Perverting the course of justice. Police Definitions one playwright. one blog. […]

  2. This is some very information, I just completed my paper for school and think I should go re-edit it lol. You may have just made me a regular :)

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