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NCJ Number: 78681 Find in a Library
Title: Presumptions in Criminal Cases - A New Look at an Old Problem
Journal: Montana Law Review  Volume:41  Dated:(Winter 1980)  Pages:21-37
Author(s): J T Ranney
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 17
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The area of statutory presumptions in criminal cases is clarified, and a new approach to this problem area is suggested.
Abstract: The need for a new analytical approach in the interpretation of statutory presumptions is clear. The test last approved by a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court for assessing the constitutional validity of such presumptions, the so-called 'more-likely-than-not' test, is conceded by virtually all commentators to be inadequate. The test bears no reasonable relation to the vital due process fairness considerations actually involved and has only a haphazard relationship to just constitutional decisions. The suggestion of most commentators -- that the 'beyond-a-reasonable-doubt' standard should replace the existing test -- is similarly inadequate, being a much too simplistic response to the problem. Justice Cardozo indicated many years ago the difficulty of adopting an all-embracing formula regarding presumptions: 'The decisive considerations are too variable, too much distinctions of degree, too dependent in last analysis upon a common sense estimate of fairness or of facilities of proof, to be crowded into a formula. One can do not more than adumbrate them; sharper definition must await the specific case as it arises.' This analysis suggests that the constitutionality of a given statutory or judicially created rebuttable presumption must be carefully analyzed in terms of the provision's precise consequences in a given case, as part of an overall assessment of its fairness. A total of 64 footnotes are listed. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Judicial decisions; Right to Due Process; Statutory presumptions; US Supreme Court
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