Powell v. Nevada


DOCKET NO.: 92-8841
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Nevada

CITATION: 511 US 79 (1994)
ARGUED: Feb 22, 1994
DECIDED: Mar 30, 1994

Dan M. Seaton – on behalf of the Respondent
Miguel A. Estrada – as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondent
Michael Pescetta – on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Powell v. Nevada

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – February 22, 1994 in Powell v. Nevada

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 30, 1994 in Powell v. Nevada

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 92-8841, Powell against Nevada will be announced by Justice Ginsburg.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

This case concerns the retroactivity of the Court’s 1991 decision in County of Riverside against Mclaughlin.

When a person is arrested without a warrant, the Fourth Amendment protects him against unreasonable seizures post for a prompt judicial determination whether probable cause exists for continuing the person in detention.

As a rule, Mclaughlin held prompt means within 48 hours.

The petitioner in this case, Kitrich Powell, charged in late 1989 with the murder of his girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter, was detained by Nevada police for four days before a magistrate confirmed the existence of probable cause to jail him pending prosecution.

The Nevada Supreme Court in 1992 held that the 48-hour rule prescribed in Mclaughlin was inapplicable in Powell’s case because our 1991 decision issued many months after Powell’s 1989 arrest.

In so ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court overlooked Grifitth v. Kentucky, a 1987 decision, in which we declared a rule for the conduct of criminal prosecutions is to be applied retroactively to all cases, state or federal, not yet final when the rule is announced.

We, therefore, vacate the Nevada Supreme Court’s judgment.

Our decision does not mean Powell will succeed in overturning his conviction where several questions remain open on remand.

Most prominently, the Nevada Supreme Court has yet to consider closely the appropriate remedy for a delay in determining probable cause for detention pending prosecution.

That issue is one this Court did not address in Mclaughlin.

Justice Thomas joined by the Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion.