As criminal law grows, so does the West Key Number System

August 17, 2011

WestlawCriminal law has seen many changes in the last few years, particularly in areas such as the application of Miranda, the exclusionary rule, and the admissibility of the defendant’s prior misconduct.

Our response: As of August 1, more than 400,000 headnotes have been reclassified in the West Key Number System, particularly within Criminal Law (topic 110) and Arrest (topic 35).

Changes are especially significant in the following areas:

  • Evidence of other crimes or misconduct: The “other crimes, wrongs, or acts” rule, in its entirety, has been the subject of more appeals than any other evidence rule. David P. Leonard, Character and Motive in Evidence Law, 34 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 439, 441 (2001).  Accordingly, there are now more Key Numbers covering the purposes for which evidence of other crimes or misconduct is admissible (e.g., the single Key Number for the admissibility of other crimes or prior bad acts evidence to prove motive has been expanded to 26, organized by the offense being prosecuted), more Key Numbers covering the use of such evidence to prove knowledge and identity, and newly created Key Numbers for the frequently-litigated issues of gang membership and juvenile misconduct evidence.
  • Confessions, statements, and admissions:  Three former sections for confessions, statements, and admissions have been consolidated into a single section, so that similar concepts governing all three types of evidence are in the same place.  For example, headnotes pertaining to whether a defendant is “in custody” for the purpose of Miranda warnings are now classified under a single Key Number.
  • Wrongfully obtained evidence: There are more Key Numbers to cover frequently litigated issues, such as the inevitable discovery and good faith exceptions to the exclusionary rule.  Key numbers have also been added for exclusionary rule issues not involving searches and arrests, such as violations of privileges and attorney disciplinary rules.

For all three areas, West attorney-editors have created new Key Numbers covering specific procedural issues in the admission of such evidence, such as motions, hearings, notice, and burden of proof.

In addition, there have been many smaller changes in other topics, such as those under Schools and States relating to notice, demand, and presentation of claims.