Legal Memorandum: Violation of Due Process Rights

Issue: Whether there is there case law to support an argument that it is unconstitutional to convict a defendant, including a DWI defendant, of a crime when there is clear and convincing evidence that, although allowed by statute, the methods used to collect the evidence are unreliable?

Area of Law: Criminal Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Violation of due process; Unconstitutional conviction; Evidence
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 804 F.2d 893; 893 P.2d 380; 643 N.W.2d 423; 103 P.3d 503; 707 N.E.2d 539; 977 S.W.2d 281; 967 P.2d 129; 201 P.3d 808; 666 So. 2d 551; 682 F. Supp. 2d 807; 232 P.3d 186; 679 F. Supp. 788; 596 N.E.2d 272; 719 P.2d 271; 95 Cal.App.4th 772; 867 F.2d 351; 856 N.Y.S.2d 707; 562 P.2d 395; 833 N.E.2d 834; 638 N.E.2d 861; 735 N.E.2d 1; 579 So. 2d 728; 260 F.3d 946; 479 S.E.2d 386; 585 N.E.2d 1392; 136 P.3d 558
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 08/01/2011

No cases were located supporting the specific argument that it is unconstitutional to convict a defendant of a crime based on clear and convincing evidence that the methods used to collect the evidence are unreliable even if allowed by statute.  However, there is substantial law to support the more general argument that a defendant may not be convicted on unreliable evidence or evidence obtained through an unreliable method—and that to do so would violate the defendant’s due process rights.  E.g., United States ex rel. Kubat v. Thieret, 679 F. Supp. 788, 795 (N.D. Ill. 1988) (stating general rule that “due process is violated when a conviction is obtained through the use of unreliable evidence”), aff’d, 867 F.2d 351 (7th Cir. 1989).

            The general principle that it violates a defendant’s due process rights to allow—and especially to convict based on—unreliable evidence is seen in various contexts.  The courts frequently state the rule that identification of the defendant through procedures that are unreliable is unconstitutional.  “[T]he Due Process Clause precludes a jury from convicting a defendant on identification evidence that is unreliable.”  People v. DeJesus, 516 N.E.2d 801, 802 (Ill. App. Ct. 1987).  Indeed, “[d]ue process protects the accused against the introduction of evidence which results from an unreliable identification obtained through unnecessarily suggestive procedures.”  Stadler v. Curtin, 682 F. Supp. 2d 807, 820 (E.D. Mich. 2010).  Accord Thigpen v. Cory, 804 F.2d 893 (6th Cir. 1986); Alston […]

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