Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Illinois v. Allen case brief

Illinois v. Allen case brief summary
397 U.S. 337 (1970)

The State challenged a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which held that defendant's constitutional right to be present at trial was violated when he was removed from the courtroom during his trial because he was disruptive.

After defendant's conviction for armed robbery had been affirmed, defendant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in a federal district court and alleged he had been deprived of his constitutional right to remain present throughout his trial. The district court found no constitutional violation. An appellate court reversed, holding that a trial court could never expel an accused from his trial.


  • The court granted certiorari to determine whether defendant could claim the benefit of the constitutional right to remain in the courtroom while engaging in speech and conduct so disruptive that it was exceedingly difficult to carry on the trial. 
  • The court overturned the decision of the appellate court. 
  • The court held that defendant could lose his right to be present at trial if such conduct persisted even after a trial judge's warning that he would be removed if he continued his disruptive behavior. 
  • Defendant could have reclaimed the right to be present as soon as he was willing to conduct himself properly. 
  • Thus, the trial court did not err in removing him, which was one of three constitutionally permissible ways for a trial court to handle an obstreperous defendant.

The court reversed the lower court's decision. The court held that defendant could lose his constitutional right to be present at his trial if, after the judge warned him he would be removed, he continued to be disruptive. Because defendant continued being disruptive, the trial could not be carried on with him in the courtroom.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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