Rochin v. California: What Shocks the Conscience

Have you ever wondered what the origin was of the "Shocks the conscience" standard so often cited by trainers, instructors and the courts?

Justices Black and Douglas wrote concurring opinions.  Both believed that there was a violation of the Fifth Amendment in addition to the fourteenth.  Their standard was that the process the officers took violated Rochin’s freedom of self-incrimination.  Douglas went on to say that the manner the evidence was obtained violated “decencies of civilized conduct” (ROCHIN v. CALIFORNIA, No. 83, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, 342 U.S. 165; 72 S. Ct. 205; 96 L. Ed. 183; 1952 U.S. LEXIS 2576; 25 A.L.R.2d 1396).

The officers illegally entered the home of the defendant and as we say at times tossed the house.  The only thing seen was the two capsules on the table which Rochin consumed.  There was no search warrant for the home or, the content of his stomach.  Putting one’s self in the shoes of Rochin would you want this done to you?  

Thus, the court established the shocks the conscience standard that should be applied in all cases. We as law enforcement officers are held to that higher standard.  Today a case of this type could very well land the officers in jail and definitely in internal affairs.  Since that time other cases have ruled concluded the “shock the conscience standard” and rightly so.  Law enforcement is a noble profession of which I was proud to be a member of for thirty seven years.  We should stay within the confines of law and human decency.


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About The Author:

Randy Rider began his career with the Douglas County Sheriff office, Georgia in 1974. He received several promotions eventually to investigations. His areas of expertise are extensive having worked crimes from petty theft to murder. In 1983 he became employed with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice as an investigator, promoted to Principal Investigator. He eventually moved into the Internal Affairs Unit as an investigator and as a supervisor.

Rider was elected President of the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association in 2005 and stepped down in 2010 having served five years. He is currently the Chaplain of the organization.

He is employed with the Public Agency Training Council one of the largest police training organizations in the country. Rider travels the country teaching officers on internal investigations of corrections facilities and first line supervisors on investigations of citizen’s complaints. He has experience is police audits.

Over the course of his career he has conducted hundreds of investigations concerning abuse, neglect, and use of force by law enforcement officers. Additionally, he has years of experience in custodial investigations, including numerous investigations involving the highly prevalent but seldom reported cases of inmate on inmate abuse. He has conducted investigations of police personnel for acts of misconduct.

A member of the IACP he worked with the organization on the document “Building Trust between the Police and the Citizens They Serve.” Currently he is an advisor on the Leading by Legacy program. He is an advisor to the International Chiefs of Police and the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services.

Randy is a columnist for as the internal affairs author. He published the weekly NIAIA newsletter for five years. He currently publishes the riderreport a police newsletter.

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