(This guest post was written by Kevin Lelonek as a response to a comment on this post from way back in January, 2012. In his own words, “Kevin is a dual degree student pursuing his J.D. and M.B.A. in Buffalo, New York. He’s in his last year of the program and looks forward to starting his career. And of course, he’s a total nerd.”)
Batman and the Constitution: How can the Gotham D.A. convict criminals captured by Batman?
In the comments to a previous article about Batman’s relationship to the “State,” Crazy Jay raised some serious questions about how the Gotham District Attorney is able to prosecute Gotham’s criminals when Batman is involved in the apprehension of those criminals. Crazy Jay asked “how can the District Atty. Prosecute a criminal if the Batman had his mitts all over the evidence?” Crazy Jay asked about how Due Process, Miranda Rights, Cross Examinations, the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine, confessions, and Search Warrants, the staples of criminal law, work in a world with Batman. How indeed? So let’s get started.
- Another Night on Patrol
The simplest case in which Batman stops crime infringes on no Constitutional protections. Consider the following: two masked men armed with shotguns enter a bank. One of the tellers quickly signals the silent alarm. The two armed men wave their shotguns around and demand the bank’s patrons lie face down on the floor. They turn their shotguns to the tellers and demand that the tellers empty their drawers. The armed men take the money from the tellers’ drawers and threaten the bank manager to open the safe. Before the armed men can leave with the money Batman intervenes, disarms the robbers, ties them up, and leaves them for the police. The police arrive as Batman disappears in the shadows.
Generally, criminal Constitutional protections only operate against the government. Due process, depending on which theory of it we are talking about, is a broad concept. We can conceptualize it as a series of steps and attendant procedures that the government must take to obtain a conviction. For example, a police officer needs probable cause before he can arrest someone, and the government must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction.
Certainly in the above example the police that first arrive at the bank have probable cause to arrest the two armed men that Batman tied up. At this point the two suspects are still masked and tied up, the two shotguns are presumably on the bank floor somewhere out of reach, and the police were summoned to the bank by the silent alarm. Statements by the patrons and employees provide further evidence of crime against the two men, making for a lawful arrest. Upon arresting the suspects, the police must read the suspects their Miranda rights. If the officers fail to do this, they risk having the suspects’ subsequent statements or confessions excluded at trial.
In this situation there is nothing stopping Harvey Dent (pre-acid) from prosecuting the armed men. The fact that Batman thwarted the robbery does nothing to alter the fact that the two men forcibly stole property. To commit third degree robbery in New York, a person must: (1) wrongfully take, obtain, or withhold property; (2) with the intent to deprive the owner of such property or to appropriate the same for himself; and, (3) threaten another with the use of immediate physical force to prevent resistance to the taking of property or to compel the owner of the property or another person to deliver the property. 
Even if there were no surveillance cameras, the patrons of the bank and the bank’s employees can present evidence against the robbers sufficient to establish the elements of the crime. Testimony to the facts above establishes that the armed men: (1) wrongfully took and obtained property that did not belong to them, the bank’s money; (2) intended to deprive the bank of its money and to appropriate the money for themselves when they demanded it from the tellers and bank manager; (3) used their shotguns to threaten the immediate use of force to prevent resistance to their demands. Further testimony to the effect that Batman intervened, disarmed the masked men, incapacitated them, tied them up, and left them for the police, who arrived shortly thereafter to unmask the armed men in front of the patrons and employees, establishes the identities of the defendants as those of the two armed men. The sum of all of this testimony seems to carry the prosecution’s burden of proof.
Of course the defendants are still entitled to their Sixth Amendment rights to put on a defense and to confront witnesses. But Batman’s intervention does not alter these rights in any way: he is not preventing the defendants from presenting their own evidence in court or from cross examining the government’s witnesses against them. Assuming the defendants do not rat each other out for plea deals, we can imagine them putting on a common defense that attacks the credibility, perception, and memory of the witnesses with the intent to cast doubt on whether the defendants were in fact the robbers unmasked by the police. Lacking a population of witnesses that has sudden memory loss or that was lacking its required corrective eyewear (think My Cousin Vinny) it’s safe to say Dent gets his conviction on this one.
- Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
The “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine only applies to evidence that is discovered as a result of a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The doctrine is an exclusionary rule that operates to preclude the introduction of evidence that was obtained as a result of a bad “search” or “seizure” (i.e. a search not based on a warrant or an arrest without probable cause). Since the Constitution only restricts government action, it seems that the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine would never apply to Batman. But this raises the question of how evidence procured by Batman, which he then turns over to the police, would be handled. Consider Batman: The Long Halloween when Batman leaves Carmine Falcone’s ledger on the GCPD HQ’s rooftop after meeting with Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent there. Seemingly, the issue the government would face is establishing the ledger’s authenticity, that the ledger is in fact Carmine Falcone’s and that it details his illegal operations. Assuming Batman is not testifying, the government would need to produce a witness who could identify the ledger as the ledger Carmine Falcone used to document his criminal enterprises.
Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, hearsay is generally not permissible testimony. Hearsay is defined as a statement that the declarant makes while not testifying at the current trial or hearing. However, a statement made by an opposing party is not considered hearsay.  Thus, a criminal defendant’s statement is not hearsay because the defendant is the opposing party to the prosecution in its case against the defendant. Accordingly, the confession Batman obtains from a suspect is admissible evidence at court. Getting the confession into evidence is another matter. Likely, Batman will not be testifying at the criminal trial. Unless Batman obtained the confession in the presence of another, who can testify to its substance, it probably won’t be used as evidence. Even if admitted, there is a credibility issue with the confession: if Batman “beat” the confession out of the defendant, the defense can attack its credibility by arguing that the confession was coerced.
- Search warrants
Now, the best (most interesting) for last: search warrants. In the ordinary case, police need a search warrant based on probable cause to search for and seize evidence. Although inapplicable to the bank example above, we can imagine a situation in which Batman infiltrates a warehouse and identifies a large hidden cache of Penguin’s weapons. Batman alerts Commissioner Gordon to the location of the weapons. Before the GCPD can search the warehouse and seize the weapons it must first obtain a search warrant from a magistrate judge. In the usual case, a police officer who has witnessed what she suspects to be evidence of crime appears applies to a magistrate for a warrant based on what she witnessed. In the present case, Commissioner Gordon has not personally witnessed the weapons cache. Being an honest cop, the Commissioner will not lie under oath to obtain a warrant. Luckily, under the Constitution the police, and our Commissioner, can obtain a warrant based on a tip from a reliable informant!
A search warrant based on an informant’s tip (hearsay) requires that the totality of the circumstances indicate to the magistrate judge that there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of crime will be found at a particular place.  The totality of the circumstances test takes into account the truthfulness and accuracy of the informant, as well as the basis of the informant’s knowledge. Since this test is not rigid, probable cause could be found on facts provided by an informant either because the informant has been reliable in the past or because evidence of the informant’s basis of knowledge of those facts is strong.
Lacking independent police obtained evidence of crime (i.e. Harvey Bullock sees the cache of weapons himself), Gordon can appear before the magistrate judge (or provide an affidavit) to testify that: (1) he received a tip that there is a large cache of weapons in a warehouse in Gotham; (2) the warehouse is owned by Penguin; (3) the tip was provided by an informant with the alias “Matches,” (a named informant because Commissioner Gordon regularly relies on tips received from Batman); (4) “Matches” has supplied truthful and accurate tips in the past (meaning he has given tips in the past that resulted in the GCPD finding what “Matches” said it would find); and, (5) “Matches” personally gained access to the warehouse and saw the weapons cache. The more specific Commissioner Gordon can describe the weapons cache and the warehouse, the more likely the warrant issued on Batman’s tip is likely to withstand its subsequent challenge by Penguin after he is arrested. Thus, the tip is more reliable when Batman takes an inventory of the weapons and informs Gordon that Penguin has 20 cases of fully automatic Uzi’s and 10 cases of RPG’s. Likewise, the more the GCPD uses “Matches” as an informant who leads it to evidence of crime, the more reliable “Matches” becomes as an informant!
Now, this is not to say that Batman himself is not potentially criminally and civilly liable for his actions. If he crashes through the skylight window of the bank in the first example, in appropriately dramatic fashion, he would likely be liable for property damages. Also, his use of physical force against the two armed bank robbers likely constitutes assault.
All of the foregoing indicates that Batman’s aid in stopping crime should not hinder the successful prosecution of criminal defendants by the Gotham DA. This of course makes the “revolving door” in Gotham all the more inexplicable. If Batman’s participation in law enforcement is legal, why are the super villains never successfully incarcerated?
We might consider the insanity defense to criminal charges. In New York, the defense is not called the insanity defense; instead it’s the mental defect or disease defense. It requires that the defendant, at the time of the offense, lacked substantial capacity to know or appreciate the nature or consequences of his conduct, or that his conduct was wrong. But one study found that the insanity defense was only raised in 0.85% of cases, and was only successful in 26% of those cases. Perhaps we can imagine that the 0.22% (0.85% * 26%) of successful insanity cases are those made by the likes of Joker, Two-Face, the Ventriloquist, and the more colorful members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery. In any event it seems Batman’s involvement in law enforcement does not prevent the successful prosecution of criminal cases.
 Allen, Stuntz, Hoffmann, Livingston & Leipold, Comprehensive Criminal Procedure, 87-97 (3rd ed. 2011).
 Miles v. U.S., 103 U.S. 304 (1880).
 Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200 (1979).
 Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
 NY Penal Law §§ 155.05, 160.0, 160.05 (McKinney 2015).
 See, e.g., In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257 (1948); Washington v.Texas, 388 U.S. 14 (1967).
 Wong Sun v. U.S., 371 U.S. 471 (1963); Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).
 See, e.g., California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621 (1991); Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385 (1978); Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347 (1967).
 Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween, (2011).
 Fed. R. Evid. 901(a).
 Fed. R. Evid. 802.
 Fed. R. Evid. 801(c).
 Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2).
 U.S. Const. amend IV; see, e.g., Johnson v. U.S., 333 U.S. 10 (1948).
 Presuming the weapons cache is hidden and would require entry into the warehouse to identify, Commissioner Gordon cannot go to the warehouse to corroborate Batman’s tip and provide independent evidence of crime: such action would be an unlawful search.
 Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983).
 See id. As an aside, the “accurate and truthful” and “basis of knowledge” aspects of the test can, as a practical matter, be established by the same evidence. The events happen in the following sequence: (1) the police appear before the magistrate to present evidence based on a tip from an informant for a search warrant; (2) the magistrate issues the warrant; (3) the police execute the warrant, search, find evidence of crime, and arrest the defendant; (4) the defendant is charged and challenges the basis of the warrant; (5) the trial court reviews the magistrate’s determination of probable cause taking into account whether the informant has provided accurate information in the past, and on whether the police found what the informant said it would find. The fact that the police found what the informant said it would find establishes that the informant was “accurate and truthful,” and that the informant had a reliable basis for his knowledge (how else would the informant know what the police would find!).
 Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983).
 N.Y. Penal Law § 120.00 (McKinney 2015).
 N.Y. Penal Law § 40.15 (McKinney 2015).
 Michael Perlin, The Jurisprudence of the Insanity Defense, 108 (1993).