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  • Writer's pictureTommy Sangchompuphen

Today's Solar Eclipse's Path of Totality (of the Circumstances)

The path of today's total solar eclipse will enter the United States in Texas and travel through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

 

Where I live in Dayton, the eclipse will reach peak totality at 3:09 p.m. local time for a totality duration of 2 minutes, 42 seconds. "Totality" is when the moon fully covers the sun, turning day to night for a brief few minutes.

 

With today’s rare and awe-inspiring spectacle taking place today, it’s only appropriate to draw a parallel to a key concept in Criminal Procedure that often appears on bar exams: the "totality of the circumstances" test.

 

The "totality of the circumstances" test is a legal standard used in various contexts within Criminal Procedure, especially under the Fourth Amendment, which deals with searches and seizures. This test involves assessing the entire context of a situation rather than relying on any single factor or rigid set of criteria.



Here are some key instances where the "totality of the circumstances" test may appear on the bar exam:

 

Determining Reasonable Suspicion for Stops: When evaluating whether a police officer had reasonable suspicion to stop an individual, courts look at the "totality of the circumstances." This includes considering the officer's observations and information, as well as the behavior of the individual.

 

Assessing Probable Cause for Searches and Arrests: Courts use the "totality of the circumstances" to decide if there was probable cause to justify a search or an arrest. This means examining all factors known to the officer at the time, including witness statements, observed behavior, and information received from informants.

 

Validity of Consent Searches: When determining whether consent to search was given voluntarily, the court will look at the "totality of the circumstances," including the manner in which consent was requested by the police, the individual’s age, education, intelligence, and whether they were advised of their right to refuse consent.

 

Evaluating Informant’s Tips: The reliability of tips from informants, sometimes important in obtaining warrants or justifying stops, is often assessed using the "totality of the circumstances." This includes the informant’s credibility, the detail of the tip, and corroboration of the tip's details by the police.

 

Determining the Presence of Exigent Circumstances: In situations where police enter a premise without a warrant due to an emergency, the "totality of the circumstances" test is used to evaluate if the exigent circumstances were sufficient to override the usual need for a warrant.

 

Traffic Stops and Prolonged Detention: The legitimacy of the duration and scope of a traffic stop can be assessed under the "totality of the circumstances" test, particularly in cases where the stop extends beyond its initial purpose.

 

Involuntary Confession Assessments: Courts look at the "totality of the circumstances" to determine if a confession was given involuntarily by considering the duration and nature of the interrogation, the conditions of detention, the manifest attitude of the police, and the mental state of the accused.

 

In these instances, the "totality of the circumstances" test allows for a specific and comprehensive assessment of the particular situation. This approach ensures that decisions are not made based on a narrow or isolated view of events or facts, but rather on a holistic understanding of all relevant factors.

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