Thursday, August 15, 1996

US Supreme Court Terry v. Ohio


   Every cop knows Terry v. Ohio... Officer McFadden stopped Terry & Co. after watching him case a store, apparently preparing for a robbery.  Fearing that they were armed, he searched them for weapons.  They were armed, and charged with CCW.

   The defendants filed a motion to suppress the guns as the fruit of an illegal search.  The Court held that the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, and it is reasonable for an officer to detain a suspect based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and search that suspect's outer clothing for weapons when there is reason to believe the suspect might be armed and dangerous.

   Interestingly, there was a dissenting opinion.  Justice Douglas would have held that the stop and search were unreasonable because they were not based on probable cause.  Can you imagine how much more difficult law enforcement would be if the court's decision had gone that way?

Tuesday, August 6, 1996

US Supreme Court Gardner v Broderick 392

Decided June 10, 1968

   The facts of this case occurred before Garrity, but the case was decided after Garrity.

   Gardner was a police officer in New York, who was being investigated by a grand jury for bribery, corruption, and illegal gambling.  He was advised of his right against self incrimination, but asked to sign a waiver of that right.  He refused.

   At the time, New York had a policy in their charter which said that any city employee would be fired if they pled the fifth to work-related questions in court.  Gardner was fired for his refusal to waive his rights, and he sued the city for reinstatement and back pay.  He lost, but he appealed.

   The US Supreme Court held that if Gardner could have legally been fired if he had refused to answer questions about the discharge of his duties without being asked to waive his rights.  But that's not what happened; Gardner wasn't fired for not telling his boss what he did, Gardner was fired for not waiving his rights in a pending criminal prosecution.  The lower courts' decision was reversed.

   And so now, whenever we go to IA, we are informed that we will be fired if we refuse to answer questions, but that our answers can not be used against us in a criminal case- they're just used to determine what our future employment status will be.