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Police Need Not Say Why Arrest Made

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    Police Need Not Say Why Arrest Made: U.S. High Court Overview http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news? pid=10000103&sid=aervulEx104o&refer=us Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) --
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2005
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      Police Need Not Say Why Arrest Made:
      U.S. High Court Overview
      http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?
      pid=10000103&sid=aervulEx104o&refer=us


      Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Police officers don't have to give a reason
      at the time they arrest someone, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a
      ruling that shields officers from false-arrest lawsuits.

      The justices, voting 8-0, threw out a suit against Washington state
      police officers who stopped a motorist and then told him he was
      being arrested for tape-recording their conversation. Although the
      recording was legal, the high court said the arrest was valid
      because the man could have been arrested instead for impersonating a
      police officer.

      In an opinion for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the
      officers didn't have to provide a reason for arresting the man at
      all, as long as they had probable cause to do so.

      ``While it is assuredly good police practice to inform a person of
      the reason for his arrest at the time he is taken into custody, we
      have never held that to be constitutionally required,'' Scalia
      wrote.

      The decision was one of five issued by the court today in
      Washington. In a second unanimous ruling, the court said the Florida
      Supreme Court was wrong to set aside a death penalty verdict on the
      grounds that the defense lawyer didn't obtain explicit client
      authorization to concede guilt and focus on the penalty phase of the
      trial.

      Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the high court, said that
      factor didn't automatically render the lawyer's performance
      deficient and warrant a new trial in the murder case.

      Rehnquist Plans

      Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who announced Oct. 25 that he is
      being treated for thyroid cancer, didn't take part in either
      unanimous ruling.

      Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Rehnquist, 80, will abstain from
      some of the cases argued during the two-week period that started
      Nov. 1. The chief justice, however, will take part in all cases
      argued during the subsequent two-week December argument session that
      began Nov. 29, she said.

      ``The chief justice has decided he will not participate in November
      cases unless the conference vote without him is 4-4,'' Arberg said.
      ``He is going to participate in the December cases.''

      The news, coupled with the announcement last week that Rehnquist
      plans to administer the oath of office to President George W. Bush
      at the Jan. 20 inauguration, suggests the chief justice isn't
      planning to retire any time soon. Medical experts say Rehnquist, who
      has undergone a tracheotomy, chemotherapy and radiation, may have an
      especially aggressive form of thyroid cancer.

      Superfund Ruling

      In other cases, the court:

      -- Limited the power of companies to sue other businesses and the
      federal government for the cost of cleaning up hazardous wastes. The
      justices ruled 7-2 that a disputed section of the Superfund law
      doesn't authorize companies to sue for cleanup costs unless they are
      facing a federal enforcement action. The decision left open the
      possibility that type of suit could be filed under a different
      section of the law.

      -- Shielded a police officer in Washington state from an excessive-
      force lawsuit filed by a suspect who was shot in the back by the
      officer while trying to flee in a vehicle.

      In the false-arrest ruling, the justices reversed a decision by the
      San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals
      court had said an arrest on an invalid charge can't be upheld unless
      police could have filed a different charge over a ``closely related
      offense.''

      Scalia said the 9th Circuit reasoning would have ``perverse
      consequences,'' giving officers an incentive not to give any reason
      for an arrest.

      Ruling Reversed

      The troopers pulled Jerome Anthony Alford over in 1997 after seeing
      him stop behind a disabled vehicle on a highway. The occupants of
      the disabled car told police they thought Alford was a police
      officer because his car had headlights that alternated flashing on
      and off.

      The troopers said that, when they stopped Alford, they saw that he
      had a police scanner and handcuffs. A supervisor arrived and noticed
      that Alford had a tape-recorder that was recording his conversation
      with the officers.

      The officers arrested Alford on a charge of violating Washington's
      Privacy Act, which makes it unlawful to record a private
      conversation without all parties' consent. Alford told the officers
      he had a copy of a court ruling that said the state privacy law
      didn't protect police officers on the job.

      The charge later was dismissed, and Alford sued the two officers,
      claiming false arrest and a civil rights violation.

      The case is Devenpeck v. Alford, 03-710.



      To contact the reporter on this story:
      Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr @ bloomberg.net.

      To contact the editor responsible for this story:
      Glenn Hall at ghall @ bloomberg.net.

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