1 minute read

County of Riverside v. McLaughlin

The Promptness Requirement

In Gerstein v. Pugh, the Supreme Court attempted to reconcile important competing interests in arrests without warrants. States have a strong interest in protecting public safety and individuals have a strong interest in protecting job, income, and family. The Court sought to balance these competing concerns and reach a practical compromise between the rights of individuals and the realities of law enforcement by stating that a probable cause hearing must be held "promptly after arrest." In Gerstein the Court noted that "flexibility and experimentation by the States" were desirable. The Court's purpose in Gerstein was to clarify that the Fourth Amendment requires the states to hold a prompt probable cause hearing, but the Constitution does not demand a rigid procedural framework compelling an immediate determination of probable cause upon completion of the administrative steps that go along with an arrest. The Fourth Amendment "permits a reasonable postponement of a probable cause determination while the police cope with the everyday problems of processing suspects through an overly burdened criminal justice system."

Writing for the Court, Justice O'Connor noted the importance of providing sufficient guidelines for states and counties to follow. The majority of the Court agreed that providing a probable cause hearing within 48 hours of arrest would satisfy the promptness requirement in Gerstein. An arrestee's rights could still be violated if a probable cause hearing was delayed unreasonably, even if it took place within 48 hours of arrest. Some examples of an unreasonable delay are delays used to gather additional evidence to justify the arrest, delays motivated by ill-will, or delays for delays' sake. In determining if a delay is unreasonable, the courts must allow a substantial degree of flexibility. If an arrestee does not receive a probable cause hearing within 48 hours, the government must demonstrate that a bona fide emergency or extraordinary circumstance prevented it. Consolidating pretrial proceedings or intervening weekends does not qualify as extraordinary circumstances.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994County of Riverside v. McLaughlin - Significance, The Promptness Requirement, No More Than 24 Hours Is Needed, Impact