Dumbra v. United States

Case Study

1.                              Probable cause has been defined in Dumbra v. United States (268 U.S. 435) as “a reasonable ground of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man in the belief that the party is guilty of the offense with which he is charged” (268 U.S. 435). In the case of United States v. Hoyos (892 F.2d 1387), the Supreme Court defined probable cause to mean, “the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge are sufficient to warrant a prudent person to believe that a suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime” (892 F.2d 1387). In the vehicle chase, probable existed because Officer Todd Melbourne found that the vehicle tag was due already for the past two months. Besides, the car suffered damaged as the windshield was cracked and the headlight was out. Through this situation of the car, the police officer may infer that the driver had been engaged in an accident or crime. Moreover, a warrant had been issued upon the registered owner of the vehicle. The circumstances present in the case are sufficient enough to establish probable cause to justify Police Officer Melbourne’s act of chasing and further arresting the driver of the vehicle.

                  With regard to the searching of the vehicle, probable also existed. In the present case, the sufficiency of the probable cause may be supported by the fact that the vehicle was left by the driver who was legally. In addition, the possibility that the owner of the car may return back to the car and remove or cover evidences is enough reason to secure the vehicle. Significantly, according to Officer Kevin Sedwick, a rape had been committed a few miles away from the location of the vehicle, and the two male suspects were identified to be wearing dark clothes and in their late twenties. This information collaborated with the fact that the person he chased was wearing dark clothes. Based on this collaboration, the probable cause to believe that evidence of crime may be seen in the vehicle is sufficient.

                  As to the arrest of Moreno and his companions and the seizure of the items, the probable cause was sufficiently established by the testimony of the victim. The information was directly taken from the person who had direct contact with suspects. This is enough to establish the probable cause to believe that a crime was committed by the suspects. Thus, in all cases, the probable cause was sufficiently established.

2.               In arresting a person or stopping and frisking him should always be justified with levels of proof. Every individual are guaranteed by the Constitution with right against unreasonable search and arrest. In criminal justice system, police officer may not arbitrarily arrest a person without any reason to justify the arrest. In general rule, police officers should be armed with a warrant of arrest before they could arrest a person. However, police officer may arrest a person even without a warrant. This can be done by virtue of the exclusionary rule. The case of Terry v. Ohio (392 U.S. 1) clearly demonstrate a justified stop-and-frisk situation. In this case, the police officers arrested Terry and his companions based on a “hunch” that they may be trying to hide something. Besides, they also inferred their belief on the acts of the persons arrested. In resolving the case, the Supreme Court justified the “stop-and-frisk” taken by the police officers against the accused because they had reasonable ground to belief that the latter are in the commission of a crime.

3.                     In criminal procedure, Miranda Warning is a requirement whereby the police officers are mandated to read or inform the rights guaranteed to the accused. Such rights includes, right to remain silent and to have counsel (Jordan, 2001, p.244). In this case, the Miranda warning was given properly. As a requirement, the Miranda rights of the accused should be read or be made known to him before the police officers begin with the interrogation or questioning (Jordan, 2001, p.246). This is to avoid confession or admission by the accused without knowing the consequences of his acts, and would further result to his criminal indictment. In the present case, Moreno and Teirney were informed of their Miranda rights before they were questioned about the ripped shirt and about the alleged rape. Thus, having been informed of their rights before the questioning or interrogation, it can be concluded that Miranda Warning was given properly.

4.                     In the case of United States v. Haro-Salcedo (107 F.3d 769, 77), an inventory search can only be said to be proper when it was done in good faith, according to administrative procedure, and the purpose is to search for evidence that may incriminate the owner of the vehicle (107 F.3d 769, 77). An inventory search can be done even if without a warrant provided that the search was coupled with probable cause (107 F.3d 769, 77). In this case, the inventory search is justified because warrant was pending against the registered owner of the vehicle. In addition, rape was allegedly happened near the place and the suspects were bearing the same description given by Officer Kevin Sedwick. However, as to the procedure of the inventory search, there was no showing that the inventoried items were listed in an inventory form. But then, it can still be said to have been done properly on the ground that the search was justified with probable cause.

5.                     In the case of the search of the vehicle, Officers Melbourne and Sedwick can be said to have adhered to the proper procedure of seizure. As a general rule, any agent from enforcement agency may seize properties which are the subject of a valid search warrant. If there is no search warrant, any police officer is constraint from seizing another person’s belongings. The seizure of properties is also authorized if such seizure is incidental to a valid arrest or under warrantless arrest. Such seizure can also be justified if the search was made under the doctrines of plain view or open fields. Moreover, properties can be validly seized by an authority if such properties are a threat to one’s life or security. The items seized should be deposited in the care of the agency of the law enforcers. The items should only be seized if they are material in a criminal investigation. In here  Officers Melbourne and Sedwick had probable cause to seize the items like, driver license, hooded sweatshirt, and a pair of jogging socks.

            With regard to the seizure of the drug paraphernalia, semi- automatic gun, knife, and ripped shirt, it can be concluded that Officers Jones and Morales did not follow the proper seizure procedure. It is fundamental that the officers making searches should be armed with a valid search warrant. In this case, the police officers entered the house of the suspect without a search warrant. Although they have the probable cause sufficient enough to make search and arrest, the seizure is not justified on the ground that they failed to obtain search warrant despite having ample time to do so. The search being tainted for want of a valid warrant, it cannot be said that the officers adhered or complied with the proper procedure of seizure.

6.                     In the present case, the applicable doctrine is plain view. Plain view doctrine is “an exception to the warrant requirement which allows a police officer to seize items which they observe and immediately recognize as evidence or contraband while they are lawfully present in an area protected by the 14th amendment” (PoliceLink.com, 2008). Underlying this doctrine are elements that should be met before search and seizure can be said legal and valid. The first element requires that “the officer must have a valid justification for prior entry into the place protected by privacy” (Ferdico and Hemmens, 2004, p.413). The second element is that the officer must reasonably intrude in a place protected by “right to privacy” (Ferdico and Hemmens, 2004, p.413). The third element requires that the items which may incriminate the suspect are apparent to the view of the police officer without further investigation or search (Ferdico and Hemmens, 2004, p.413). These elements can be applicable in the search of the vehicle by Officers Melbourne and Sedwick. This is so because the police officers were in valid chase of the vehicle and such is an element in the crime. In addition, the vehicle was left opened by the suspects who fled. The vehicle being left opened, the items seized like the drivers license and the sweatshirt can be apparent in the view of the police officers, especially the driver’s license which was seen on the floor near the gas pedal. Moreover, the presence of the police officers in the place where the vehicle was is justified because of the crime that was just committed. Furthermore, the seizure of the driver’s license was justified because the police officers are in the legal discharge of their duty to identify the owner of the vehicle. Thus, the doctrine of plain view applies in this case.

            As to the seizure of drug paraphernalia, a semi-automatic gun, a knife, and a blue, ripped shirt rested on the coffee table in the house of Moreno and Tierney, no doctrine can apply. The reason is that the search or arrest was illegal from the very beginning for want of a valid warrant.

7.                     In criminal prosecution, the venue where the crime happened is essential in the determination which court has jurisdiction over the case. In this case, the Arizona Superior Court has jurisdiction over the case. Criminal cases which are serious and is not specifically assigned to any court is within the authority of the Superior Court. In addition, the Superior Court exercise general jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases (Court Records Reference and Directory, 2008). A crime of rape is a heinous crime that is not to be heard and decided by lower courts other than the Arizona Superior Court (Court Records Reference and Directory, 2008).

8.                     At present, DNA has served its importance in solving numerous cases. However, in this case, the use of DNA may not be needed because the evidence is strong enough to establish the crime of rape and illegal possession of illegal drugs. The suspects have admitted possession of the drugs and firearms. In the rape case, the ripped clothes and socks could support the allegations of the victims. Moreover, the collaboration of the crime could support the case of prosecution. In case there is denial and further doubts, DNA could be used by getting samples to be tested in the crime scene or on the victim.

9.                     In the present case, there are several criminal doctrines applicable. One is probable cause. In criminal procedure, probable can be said to be sufficiently established if the most prudent man would reasonably believe that crime is committed or the item is in the place to be searched. Probable cause is an essential element is seeking a warrant, if it is weak the request would likely be denied by the magistrate. In addition, the facts of the case also stressed the importance of a warrant. A search warrant has been defined as “an order in writing, issued by proper judicial authority, in the name of the people, directed to a law enforcement officer, commanding the officer to bring that property before the judicial authority named in the warrant” (Ferdico and Hemmens, 2004, p.212). From the definition, a warrant can only be issue by a judge or magistrate. Moreover, as search warrant is only enforceable to the particular person, place, and item identified in the order. A warrant is also necessary in making search and arrest. The absence of a valid warrant could invalidate all the officers’ effort even if the evidence may be strong.

                        Furthermore, the facts of the case also established the doctrine of plain view. As has been said, plain view requires three elements in order that the evidences taken be admitted in court. The first element is the legality of the officer’s presence in the place. Second is the intrusion in a place protected by the 4th Amendment. Last element is the items used as evidence are in the plain view of the police officers.


Court Records Reference and Directory. (2008). Arizona Superior Court. Retrieved August 16, 2008, from  http://www.courtreference.com/Arizona-Court-Types.htm

Dumbra v. U.S., 268 U.S., 268 U.S. 435 (1925).

Ferdico, J. N., and Hemmens, C. (2004). Criminal Procedure for the Criminal Justice Professional. Thomson Wadsworth.

Jordan, P. D. (2001). Paralegal Studies. Thomson Delmar Learning.

Police Link. (2008). Plain View Doctrine. Retrieved August 16, 2008, from       http://www.policelink.com/training/articles/2043-plain-view-doctrine-

United States v. Haro-Salcedo, 107 F.3d 769, 77 (1997).

United States v. Hoyos, 892 F.2d 1387 (1989).

Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

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