Publication Date


Document Type

Survey Article


This Article surveys significant 1995 decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in the field commonly referred to as "Constitutional Criminal Procedure." The primary focus of this branch of criminal procedure is on the interpretation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution. In selecting notable cases from 1995, the author looked for important interpretations of legal tests, rulings in cases of first impression, and opinions on close or controversial questions. I have endeavored to provide criminal practitioners with a useful "briefing" on recent significant developments in the Eleventh Circuit. Furthermore, I hope that the analysis and critique of the cases surveyed will constitute a modest contribution to the dialogue concerning the judicial branch's interpretation of the provisions of the Bill of Rights that are the foundation of the criminal justice system.

Is there a theme that characterizes these 1995 decisions of the Eleventh Circuit? Of course, it is difficult to discern any single, clear analytical thread running through a year's decisions concerning a number of complex issues. It is fashionable to render a judgment about whether a court's decisions reflect a pro-law enforcement or pro-defense tendency, and perhaps never more fashionable than now. The recent public controversy concerning a suppression order entered, and then withdrawn, by a federal district judge in New York has brought Constitutional criminal procedure to the forefront. Indeed, it appears that the philosophy of federal judges on these issues will be a prominent issue in the coming political season of 1996. In the parlance of the political sound bite, the tenor of the Eleventh Circuit's 1995 cases in the field of constitutional criminal procedure was "pro-law enforcement." While that label omits much, including some government losses, it captures a general truth. Nineteen-ninety-five was a good year for prosecutors in the Eleventh Circuit. Having rendered that judgment after a fashion, it is important not to overdo it by drawing more sweeping conclusions that may unfairly impute motives or imply purely outcome-oriented decision making. The critique of the decisions of a court is most fair, and meaningful, when addressed to specific issues.