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The Constable Case Essay Sample

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The Constable Case Essay Sample

  1. Introduction

The office of the Constable is one of the oldest forms involving law enforcement. Despite its antiquity, few people have a good understanding of what a Constable is; much less define the roles and functions that the office entails. One possible reason by the lack of clear-cut understanding perhaps, could be caused by the varying roles that Constables possess today in various states all throughout the country.

By and large, constables are officials of municipal corporations whose main responsibility is to maintain peace and order of the community. Hence, they are categorized as peace officers. This would sometimes require apprehending law-offenders.

However, much of the tasks of the modern day Constable focus on the follow-up of both civil and criminal processes. Although it is neither widely known nor popular, it is nonetheless important. It is the only law-enforcement officer educated and authorized in dealing with the civil and criminal cases in different courts such as the District or Federal Courts, concerned chiefly in the issuance of writs, processes, and election notices.

A Constable can assume the office either through election or appointment, depending on the statutes of the state. Nevertheless, irregardless of the route by which he obtained the position, a Constable stands for the citizens in his locality (“What is a Constable?”).

Although some states in the US provides almost the same function as that of a sheriff, most constables possess less power than the latter and tasks are often submitted under the regulation of the sheriff.

  1. History of the Constable

Early records have shown that the Constable’s office had existed since medieval history, after the Norman Conquest in 1066 (“Constable: History”).  History traces the establishment of the office through King Alfred of England, when he appointed constables in 871 A.D. However, the title comes (officer) stabuli or stabulum (stable) is found in the Roman and particularly in the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire from the 5th century AD, with primary military functions. The term derives from the Latin comes stabuli, meaning “count of the stable”. A constable then, was the head of the stable. From this humble beginnings, constables rose to achieve the distinction of being chief head of stables at the imperial court. The office of constable, (French, connetable) reappeared under the Capetian Kings of France. The Constable of France is given full charge of the army upon the king’s absence, giving the office much power and distinguished prominence in society.

The Franks borrowed the title, and under the Merovingian and Carolingian kings of Western Europe the comes stabuli was in charge of the royal stud, with marshal (marescallus) as his subordinate officer. In the 11th century the constable of France became one of the five great officers of state, with limited powers of jurisdiction and with command of the cavalry. The constable’s military duties and judicial powers increased until, by the mid-14th century, he held supreme military command of the army. After the treason of the constable Charles de Bourbon (1523), however, the kings distrusted the power of the office, and for many years in the 16th century it was allowed to remain vacant. It was eliminated in 1627, after the death of Francois de Bonne, Duke de Lesdiguieres, but was revived by Napoleon I, who appointed his brother Louis Bonaparte grand constable. It was finally abolished upon the restoration of the Bourbons.

From France, it was passed on to Normandy in the early 11th century, when the title was given also to commanders of castles. Following the Norman Conquest of England, a number of barons with the title of constable began to appear in England. The office of constable in England was similar to that of the pre-Conquest staller. The principal duty of the constable and marshal was the command of the army. The duty as a peace-keeping officer began under the rule of King William the Conqueror (died 1087).

The Constable, together with the office of the Judiciary and Bailiffs, were defined and established through Magna Carta in 1215 (“Early History of the Constables”). The Magna Carta was the groundwork for most laws and constitutions in many parts of English-speaking countries.

The Court of the Constable and Marshal, also known as the Court of Chivalry, became largely known to have existed through the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). One of them belongs to the members of the Bohun family who achieved preeminence in the royal household. In the reign of Edward I (1100-35), Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, gained the title of “Constable of England”. This office passed by marriage to Thomas of Woodstock, youngest son of Edward III, who became Duke of Gloucester and exercised great political power under Richard II. With his fall and death in 1397 the hereditary office diminished in importance and power, and upon the execution of Edward Stafford, 3d Duke of Buckingham, in 1521, it became extinct. The office is now revived only for coronation ceremonies; Lord high constables being appointed only for this purpose.

Officers with important military commands and in control of garrisons and castles were also know as constables, such as the constables of Windsor, Dover, Caernarvon (Caernarfon), Conway, Harlech, and Flint castles and of the Tower of London. Sometimes the appointment was coupled with that of conservator (later justice) of the peace, who assisted the sheriff in enforcing the law. This gave rise to constable’s exercising civil jurisdiction. Under the Statute of Winchester (1285), the civil and military organizations were linked. There were two local constables appointed for keeping the peace and order in the jurisdiction of every hundred (or franchise) court. This statute secures every city and town in the kingdom with two constables for each 100 people, and even watchmen on night time duty. This was called the Watch and Ward system. They were responsible for suppressing riots and violent crimes and for arming the militia to enable him to do so. These were the earliest “chief constable” or “high constables”. Their subordinate officers were known as “petty constables” in each tithing, or village. These constables served without pay and kept a roster of watchmen and enforced other aspects of the system. The watchmen were to arrest suspicious persons and warn sleeping citizens at night of fire and other dangers.

As London grew and progressed, a more efficient kind of law enforcement became necessary for the city. An act of 1737 required that 68 men be paid for street duty and that 32 of them serve during the daytime. The early 19th century brought difficult times to the rapidly growing city. Poverty and famine increased. Looting and rioting were soon out of control.

The high and petty, or parish, constables remained the executive legal officers in counties until the County Police Acts of 1839 and 1840, which allowed certain justices to establish a paid police force. The police system formed by Sir Robert Peel in 1829 was tailored from the early system of constables, although the new force was much larger, better trained, and more highly discipline. The rioting in London was soon controlled but before long it spread to other areas.

 The English constables therefore were superseded in the 19th century by these paid police forces, although the constable is still the chief local law enforcement officer in many rural areas of the United States today (“Constable”). In the rural districts of the United States the constable had the same status as in England before the act of 1842. In the 20th century, the constable gradually lost most of his power in criminal matters to the uniformed police. The derivative term of “cops”, which was later used to refer to policemen, is believed to have come from the initial letters of the words “constable on patrol”. The office of the Constabulary has also furnished the alternative term “Constabulary” for the police force (“Police: History of Police Organization”).

 In Scotland bodies of high constables, formed to carry out such municipal duties as curbing riots, still exist at Edinburgh, Leith, Perth, and Holyroodhouse, the last named being prominent on state occasions (“Constable”).

  • History of Constable in Early America

The first known constable was during the period of Colonial America which was appointed in Plymouth Colony. His main responsibility was to assist the Justice of the Peace, who was the head official. While the Justice of the Peace was chiefly assigned to take accountability of both legislative and judiciary matters, the office of the Constable are responsible to ensure that orders be carried out and fully enforced.

The office of the Constable was chiefly patterned after the United Kingdom. Upon the country’s independence from British colonial rule, constables started to become elected in office. Before the upgrading of the system among law enforcers in the 19th century, the constables were mainly accountable to put the law in force. Their appointment or election is of a specified term of office, and for specific purposes. Similar to their counterparts in the United Kingdom, the constables in America did not receive any salary, nor wore civilian clothing. Instead, they would usually obtain payments for every court order served.

The position of the constable was provided in the first Constitution of the Republic of Vermont (1777) although any indication of the office was deleted when it was revised many years later and wherein it was also stripped much of its influence and authority.

In addition, due to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police, the constable’s duties were gradually replaced by the police in municipalities. But the office of the Constable was not entirely eliminated in most state in the US, in contrast to that in UK. Generally, state laws bestow some of the authority of a constable to a police officer such as the right to arrest. In many areas today, the office of the constable co-exists with the police force. It is for this reason perhaps that the designation of ‘constable’ has ceased to be used to refer to police law enforcers. Moreover, in most states, police officers do not share the duty of patrolling the vicinity which further causes the constables to be less known or familiar to the local residents.

  1. Duties and Responsibilities of Constables in the U.S.

The function of a Constable may differ from every area of jurisdiction. There are guidelines concerning the qualifications that a person should possess before he or she can assume the office. Basically, the person qualified for the position should be a legal citizen of the country, qualified to vote, and should presently be residing in the locality of his assignment.

Likewise, the constable’s term of office is greatly affected by the manner in which the officer has assumed the office — whether by election or appointment; and depending on the voting public’s decision of laying limitations to the officer’s power. Such power could range from having the authority to apprehend law violators, to purely taking care of civil matters, of giving support to health officers, or act as collector of taxes.

There is no provision in the law which prohibits a person from being elected or appointed to the office of the Constable if he or she lacks training in criminal justice. What the law provides though, are that the electorate body can choose whether they will bring restrictions to the power of the constable, regardless of the presence or absence of training in criminal justice. This is to protect the constituents from unnecessary harm or cause needless damage to the town’s welfare, if perchance the elected constable lacks the proper knowledge in judicial processes or training. There are serious advantages though of constable officers who possess necessary training relating to the job. Certified training involving the operation of certain electronic equipment in implementing speed limits, and proper training in taking blood samples of suspected drunk drivers, could certainly strengthen the evidence in court.

A constable appointed to the office can be relieved of his position but not until due process is carried out. Before a dismissal takes into effect, the constable is first notified and is presented before the body which selected the constable. The appointing body is required to present the grounds for the removal from office, and the officer in question is given the opportunity to defend himself.

In contrast, the selecting boards do not have the authority to remove a constable elected to the office. The usual term for the office of the Constable is one year but could be extended to two years if the constituents of his locality votes to lengthen the term for an additional year.

Most often, a constable must be sworn in before carrying out his obligations as a law enforcer. In some cases, a bond is required before a person can assume the duties of being a constable. But a constable is not given liberties to spend the town’s funds.

The elected and appointed constables function independently from each other, neither one acting as superior from the other. Their jurisdiction does not often embrace the whole state but is often restricted to the town’s borders. The constable must also submit to the higher authority of the sheriff or the head of administration in his area (“Constable: Roles and Responsibilities”).

Examples of Legal Duties:

  • Attachment, which necessitates a constable to seize property or properties of those who failed to pay financial debts following an order of the court. In some cases, this would also entail the selling, collecting, and allocating of the funds taken from the property apprehended by the authority.
  • Service of process is the servicing of summons that notifies a person, corporations, or organization that a case has been filed against them. Although the court does not specifically order the constable in the service process of cases, it is nonetheless expected of a constable to help facilitate the process.
  • Other miscellaneous tasks include the safekeeping of the members of court juries, being present at court hearings concerning criminal cases, and the servicing of other court orders (“Constable”).

  1. Variations in Current Usage in the United States
  2. Constable in Alabama

The constable in Alabama receives the position through election. His area of jurisdiction encompasses the whole county, as well as being able to fully exercise the authority or power to arrest all throughout the State of Alabama. Moreover, a constable is responsible in implementing traffic rules issued by the state, as well as criminal codes with the exception in Etowah and Jefferson counties. Constables in Alabama also act as forest warden, helping control or put off fires. In addition, they also help facilitate in the processing of legislative matters.

The office of constable in Alabama do not receive allotment of salaries, instead the state provides that the law offender is responsible to pay the constable. The constable does not receive financial assistance from the state of Alabama for trainings, uniforms and equipments in relation to the job (“What Constables Do”).

  1. Constable in Arizona

The office of the constable in the State of Arizona is an essential element of the judicial system. Constables in this state are also elected and work in the processing of the orders issued by the court. Duties and responsibilities include service processing of writs, summons of civil and criminal cases, and other orders given by the court. They are also in charge of properties under state custody. The revised Statue 22-131 A of Arizona requires the constable to “attend the courts of justice of the peace within their precincts when required….” and assigns the state’s advisory council to give the necessary training for constables to properly carry his duties. Constables can also have the authority to assign employees such as clerks or deputies that could assist him in performing the issues concerning his office, although such appointments must be submitted and subject to the approval of the board of supervisors. Constables are under the supervision of sheriffs (“Statue 22-131: Powers and Duties”).

  1. Constable in California

The restructuring of the state courts in California had caused the reduction of the number of constables functioning within the state. Most of the roles and duties of the office of the constable was integrated by the function of the police force. The remaining few constables in California are also involved in patrol work aside from the service of processing court orders. Constables assume the office by either appointment of the presiding judge or through election.

  1. Constable in Connecticut

The State of Connecticut has constables under two categories: the appointed and elected. The state appoints constables in towns that do not have adequate police force and helps carry out the duties of a criminal law enforcer. On the other hand, elected constables take care of serving civil processes. Voters elect their constables every two to four years.

  1. Constable in Delaware

In Delaware, the function of the constable is comparable to that of the sheriff except that it has less authority and scope of jurisdiction. The office of the constable in the State of Delaware existed even during the colonial period. Today, constables carry out the duties of processing court orders and warrants as well as maintaining peace of the state. They can apprehend persons who breach the law, help supervise the peace and order during elections, and help implement state laws. In 1986, the office of the code enforcement created the office of the constable. Such law enforcement officials were appointed to supervise matters concerning state ordinances such as housing, health and sanitation (“Constable”).

  1. Constable in Georgia

The Chief Magistrate Judge serving in the counties are authorized by the state to appoint constables. Aside from being required to give attendance before court sessions in the Magistrate Court, constables process the collection and payment and other matters relating to the office of the court. Constables appointed in counties do not have the power to arrest unless the court grants a court warrant or within the presence and directive of the court judge.

  1. Constable in Kentucky

In Kentucky, the power or authority of constables differ from each of its counties. The constable’s scopes of duties are established by the county’s judge. Some constables are granted full police powers. Such constables in these counties could receive allotment for uniforms, patrol vehicles, and other equipments. Other counties in Kentucky do not give such liberties to their constables, and some do not even receive provision for uniforms or patrol cars.

In the 1960’s there was a significant decline of the number of constables in Kentucky. The General Assembly passed an ordinance in 1998 that gives salary adjustment of constables (owed by inflation) hoping to make the office more desirable. Constables holds authority within the borders of the county of jurisdiction. Constables are usually citizens with honorable reputations who are keen for public service. However, the office has been subjected sometimes to corruption (“What is a Constable?”).

  1. Constable in Maine

The state of Maine requires aspirants for constables to undergo proper training. Upon completion of the training course, the full-pledged constables are given police powers and fulfill all the duties performed by a police official.

  1. Constable in Massachusetts

Constables can carry out servicing of judicial process within the city or town in which he or she is assigned. Constables in Massachusetts are either elected or appointed. State law also calls for constables to put up a bond in contrast to Deputy Sheriffs, in order to serve its roles and responsibilities (R. Ramponi. “Constables in Massachusetts).

  1. Constable in Michigan

Constables in Michigan are mostly appointed and whose authority is limited upon the county of which he or she is assigned. Only less than 10% of Michigan’s towns keep on electing constables. They are given the authority to serve civil and criminal warrants, the latter only as directed by the Township Board. Constables serve as a ministerial administrator of the court (“Constable Powers”).

  1. Constable in Mississippi

Mississippi state law appropriates one constable for every court district in every county. Every constable’s main duty is to protect its citizens from crime and maintain the peace in his assigned county. Constables in Mississippi do not receive fees upon the servicing of judicial processes. Constables are required to submit to trainings related to his duties during his term of office. Completion of the training does not subject the constable for physical fitness test. The county’s board of supervisors is responsible for only paying once, of the trainings that constables are required to accomplish. Failure to attend the required training causes the constable to veto his rights for compensation. Moreover, he or she is required to accomplish other trainings at his own expense (“Mississippi Code of 1972: Sec. 19-19-5, General Duties of Constables; Training Program”).

  1. Constable in Nevada

Constables in Nevada assume the office by the public’s votes. Qualifications for both elected and appointed constables include being above the age of 21 years, an elector, and had never been convicted of any law violations in any state. A constable’s compensation is determined by the board of county commissioners. This body of commissioners is also authorized to appoint constables at any time, if needed (“Constables: Qualifications and Compensations”).

  1. Constable in New Jersey

Like in most other state in the US, constables in New Jersey are generally considered as peace officers. However, the state has curtailed some of its powers and authority concerning police functions. Much of their tasks focus more on processing judicial paper works and implementation of civil laws.

  1. Constable in New York

Under New York state laws, constables are defined as officers of law enforcement. However, their authority and power vary from every area of jurisdiction, with some towns reducing some powers usually relegated to law enforcement officers.

  1. Constable in Ohio

There are some towns in Ohio in which constables also act as police officers. Others act as officers of the court. Constables are appointed, and most areas require them to post bonds as well as undergo trainings pertaining to police works. They also carry duties of serving court orders and have the power to arrest law breakers.

  1. Constable in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the public elects its constables to serve a six-year term of office. There are also constables who assume the office by appointment. The state law views constables, irregardless of origin, chiefly as peace officers. However, when he or she has completely complied with all the required trainings, are given authority to fulfill the duties of a law enforcer of the court. A constable may appoint deputies to assist his work but is subject to the approval of the President Judge. Since they are an elected official, they are relatively free from the influence of other governing bodies, impartial to best satisfy the purpose of justice.

  1. Constable in Tennessee

A constable in this state is given full power of arrest in accordance to his duty as a peace officer. Constables get elected in office to serve a four year term, corresponding to the presidential election. In some counties of Tennessee, some candidates for the office of the constable requires that all aspirants be free from partisanship and must run as an independent candidate. However, other counties do not hold such restrictions.

  1. Constable in Texas

Article 5, Section 18 of the Texas Constitution assigns a constable for every precinct in every county of the state. Such constables are elected by the public. A county with big populations may even have eight precincts. Elected constables serve civil process within his area of jurisdiction as well as any adjoining counties. Their power to serve warrants is permitted all throughout the state of Texas.

  1. Constables in Vermont

Constables in Vermont are usually elected by the town. They are assigned to perform duties with service of process, destroy unlicensed dogs, dispersal of unruly gatherings, or remove unruly persons. In towns where there are no tax collectors, constables assume such duties. In general, constables have full authority to enforce the law but can be modified through votation of the town’s constituents.

  1. Current Usage in Other Countries
  1. United Kingdom

A Constable of the Tower of London still exists today. But in general, the United Kingdom’s legal system assigns legal duties such as the power to arrest or maintain the peace and order of the public under his or her jurisdiction, although there are usually responsibilities added to it. Those sworn in to the office have authority autonomous from the police —- going beyond the function of a mere agent of the police. All police officers sworn in to office in UK are also acting as constables since it is given that the police force obtains their authority from the office of the Constable. The chief of the police force in a locality is sometimes called Senior Constable but this does not hold true in the United Kingdom. In New South Wales, Leading Senior Constable does not refer to a high ranking position but to a temporary position under training. There were “special” or “petty” constables that used to function before, however such tasks were already reassigned to the duties of police officers (“Constable”).

  1. Channel Islands

Every parish would vote for a constable that would represent their locality in the legislative body in Jersey. Various committees are headed by the elected constables such as the Roads Committee. All in all, there are twelve constables who form the Committee of Constables. It is also a figurative head of the Honorary Police.

The parish in Guernsey on the other hand, votes for both their senior and junior constables. A unique right or authority given to the constables in Guernsey is the power to pronounce any of their constituents insane.


  1. “What is a Constable?”.


  1. “Constable: History”. http://brgov.com/dept/constable/
  2. “Early History of the Constable”. http://www.wilco.org/constables/pct1/history/index.html
  3. “Constable”. Encyclopedia Americana. Vol. 7. 1978
  4. “Police: History of Police Organization”. The New Book of Knowledge. Vol. 15. 1981
  5. “Constable” Encyclopedia Britannica. Vol. 3 1991
  6. “Constable” Legal Encyclopedia”. http://www.answers.com/topic/constable
  7. “What Constables Do”. http://www.angelfire.com/al4/nalca/constablesdo.html
  8. “Statue 22-131: Powers and Duties”. http://www.azleg.state.az.us -22-131
  9. “Constable”. http://archives.delaware.gov/collections/aghist/3456.shtml
  10. “What is a Constable?”.


  1. Ramponi, R. “Constables in Massachusetts”.


  1. “Constable Powers”. http://www.michigantownships.org/mta9042092.asp
  2. “Mississippi Code of 1972: Sec. 19-19-5, General Duties of Constables; Training

Program. http://www.mscode.com/free/statutes/19/019/0005.htm

  1. “Constables: Qualifications and Compensations”. Chapter 258.


  1. “Constable: Roles and Responsibilities”.


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