Publication Date


Document Type

Survey Article


The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution are the three pillars of the American system of criminal justice. The three amendments make procedural guarantees using enigmatic terms that are given meaning by those with the power of interpretation. The Fourth Amendment protects us from "unreasonable searches and seizures." The Fifth Amendment includes a guarantee of "due process of law." The Sixth Amendment guarantees a "speedy" trial. In the years since 1791, when these provisions were enshrined in the Bill of Rights, the courts have played the leading role in shaping the scope of these broad pronouncements. The evolution of these rights in the courts has been influenced by history, tradition, and precedent as well as changing societal attitudes about the requisites of fair process and the best way to maintain a safe, orderly society.

An important part of this constitutional evolution is played out in the United States Courts of Appeals, which decide a high volume of cases arising from federal criminal prosecutions and appeals in habeas corpus litigation concerning alleged federal constitutional violations in state prosecutions. This Article presents the annual survey of the constitutional criminal procedure decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The author surveyed decisions from calendar year 1996 that addressed Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment issues. In selecting cases for inclusion in the Article, the author attempted to choose cases based on their significance to practitioners, with an emphasis on important interpretive decisions on recurring questions. The discussion of the various cases includes a summary of the issues and the court's reasoning, as well as some commentary and analysis. Where appropriate, recent related developments in the United States Supreme Court are noted.