Law School Case Brief
Gerstein v. Pugh - 420 U.S. 103, 95 S. Ct. 854 (1975)
U.S. Const. amend. IV requires a judicial determination of probable cause as a prerequisite to extended restraint of liberty following arrest.
In March 1971, respondents Pugh and Henderson were arrested in Florida. Each was charged with several offenses under a prosecutor's information. 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. At the time respondents were arrested, a person charged by information could be detained for a substantial period without opportunity for judicial determination of probable cause. Thereafter, respondents filed a class action against Dade County, Florida, officials in federal district court, claiming a constitutional right to a judicial hearing on the issue of probable cause and requesting declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court held that the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments gave such arrested persons the right to a judicial hearing on the question of probable cause for pretrial detention, and prescribed detailed procedures for the protection of such right, involving an adversary hearing with rights to counsel, confrontation, cross-examination, and compulsory process for witnesses. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part, modifying the district court's decree in minor particulars. Petitioner Gerstein, the State Attorney for Dade County and one defendant in respondents' class action, was granted a writ of certiorari.
Were persons arrested without warrants, and held for trial under informations charging offenses under Florida law, entitled to a judicial determination of probable cause for continued pretrial detention, notwithstanding the fact that Florida law did not make a provision for such a probable cause hearing?
The Supreme Court of the United States held that under the Fourth Amendment, a person arrested without a warrant and charged by information with a state offense was entitled to a timely judicial determination by a neutral magistrate of probable cause for significant pretrial restraint of his liberty; the prosecutor's decision to file an information was not alone satisfying the Fourth Amendment's requirements. However, the Court averred that there was no constitutional requirement that the procedure adopted by a state for determining probable cause for detention must include the full panoply of adversary safeguards such as the rights to counsel, confrontation, cross-examination, and compulsory process for witnesses. Thus, the Court remanded the case for reconsideration of the propriety of procedures for the determination of probable cause required by the Fourth Amendment.
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