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Gerstein v. Pugh

Supreme Court of the United States

March 25, 1974, Argued ; February 18, 1975, Decided

No. 73-477


 [*105]   [***60]   [**858]  MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The issue in this case is whether a person arrested and held for trial under a prosecutor's information is constitutionally entitled to a judicial determination of probable cause for pretrial restraint of liberty.

In March 1971 respondents Pugh and Henderson were arrested in Dade County, Fla. Each was charged with several offenses under a prosecutor's information. 2 Pugh was denied bail because one of the charges against him carried a potential life sentence, and Henderson remained in custody because he was unable to post a $ 4,500 bond.

 [****5]   ] In  [**859]  Florida, indictments are required only for prosecution of capital offenses. Prosecutors may charge all other crimes by information, without a prior preliminary hearing and without obtaining leave of court. Fla. Rule Crim. Proc. 3.140 (a); State v. Hernandez, 217 So. 2d 109 (Fla. 1968); Di Bona v. State, 121 So. 2d 192 (Fla. App. 1960). At the time respondents were arrested, a Florida rule seemed to authorize adversary preliminary hearings to test probable cause for detention in all cases.  Fla. Rule Crim. Proc. 1.122 (before amendment in 1972).  [*106]  But the Florida courts had held that the filing of an information foreclosed the suspect's right to a preliminary hearing. See State ex rel. Hardy v. Blount, 261 So. 2d 172 (Fla. 1972). 3 They had also held that habeas corpus could not be used, except perhaps in exceptional circumstances, to test the probable cause for detention under an information.  See Sullivan v. State ex rel. McCrory, 49 So. 2d 794, 797 (Fla. 1951). [****6]  The only possible methods for obtaining a judicial determination of probable cause were a special statute allowing a preliminary hearing after 30 days, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 907.045 (1973), 4 [****7]  and arraignment, which the  [***61]  District Court found was often delayed a month or more after arrest. Pugh v. Rainwater, 332 F.Supp. 1107, 1110 (SD Fla. 1971). 5 As a result, a person charged by information could be detained for a substantial period solely on the decision of a prosecutor.

 Respondents Pugh and Henderson filed a class action against Dade County officials in the Federal District  [*107]  Court, 6 claiming a constitutional right to a judicial hearing on the issue of probable cause and requesting declaratory and injunctive relief. 7 Respondents Turner and Faulk, also in custody under informations, subsequently intervened. 8 Petitioner Gerstein, the State Attorney for Dade County, was one of several defendants. 9

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420 U.S. 103 *; 95 S. Ct. 854 **; 43 L. Ed. 2d 54 ***; 1975 U.S. LEXIS 29 ****; 19 Fed. R. Serv. 2d (Callaghan) 1499


Subsequent History:  [****1]  Reargued October 21, 1974.


Disposition:  483 F.2d 778, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.


arrest, detention, pretrial, custody, cross-examination, safeguards, detained, reliable

Criminal Law & Procedure, Accusatory Instruments, Informations, General Overview, Preliminary Proceedings, Preliminary Hearings, Procedural Matters, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, Probable Cause, Search Warrants, Probable Cause, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Arrests, Warrants, Criminal Process, Compulsory Process, Counsel, Right to Counsel, Assignment of Counsel, Evidence, Bail, Conditions of Release, Initial Appearances