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Ethical Dilemmas in the Hiibel Legal Case in Nevada Essay

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Updated: May 3rd, 2022

Nevada is one of the states where the law states that any member within the state is supposed to identify him or herself before a police officer if requested during the investigation. Larry Hiibel is one of the people that have been charged by the court in relation to this kind of law. Hiibel was arrested by the police officer and later convicted by the Nevada court because of their failure to identify himself during the investigation (Ginn 1).

Hiibel later argued against the conviction on the view that it violated his right of not being incriminated, which is the Fifth Amendment right as per the constitution of Nevada. The fourth amendment right states that every person has the right not to be searched without a valid reason. The problems he encountered did not help him because he was convicted and charged a fine of $250 (Ginn 1)

The court had ruled his case on the basis that the search did not violate the fourth amendment right. The search had a reasonable suspicion since, during the investigation of the assault, Hiibel was within the area of search, and when he was asked his name, he failed to answer the police officer. There was no violation of rights because Hiibel did not have a valid reason for failure to identify himself before the police. On the other hand, the Fifth Amendment was not found to override the legislature judgment of Nevada because it does not state that the disclosure of his identity could incriminate him (Ginn 1).

The ruling was therefore based on the decision of 1968, which affirms that the police officer may detain a person briefed on reasonable suspicion to gather more information even though there is no evidence that the person in question is a criminal. Justice demands that during instances when people have been detained briefly, which was also termed as Terry stops. According to the 1968 ruling, they are supposed to answer the questions asked in relation to the disclosure of their identities (Ginn 1)

In most cases, police officers are faced with ethical dilemmas when trying to enforce the law. There are different areas where dilemmas of ethics are identified, such as corruption, failure to perform the assigned duties, use of force, bribery as well as discretion. The police officers view the seriousness of the ethical dilemmas differently compared to the public views. For instance, the public views gratuities and brutality as a big challenge in the police force, while the police officers view sleeping on duty and sex on the workplace as the major challenges (Heffernan 43).

The police officers are therefore faced with dilemmas of discretion since they face challenges of using power when making choices in their workplace. In this situation, the officers feel uncomfortable executing the law because they fail to understand what the laws and regulations require. They, therefore, face challenges of whether to enforce the law or not. For instance, the officers might be faced with the dilemma of compassion and enforcing the law, like in the case where the police officer was called to arrest a child whom he knew very well that he lived with the grandparents and they were very poor. The child was to be arrested by one of the station gas attendants for trespassing, with the major reason being that the child harasses the customer. This police officer was faced with the choice of either enforcing the law or going against the law. This is because, in the given scenario, the complainant is not there while the officers feel that with strict legality, there shall be no justice (Cohen 63).

Issues of honesty create dilemmas in the police force whereby they are involved in cases of self-protection, honesty, the requirement of arresting the suspect, and bribery. For instance, a police officer received a phone call to attend a robbery scene. On his way to the scene, he came across a big bag full of money, and he was alone. The officer picked up the bag, and fortunately, nobody saw him. The question, which arises in this case, is what the police officer could have done with the bag. Was he to keep or return it (Heffernan 44)?

Duty is another area where police officers are faced with a dilemma in their place of work. This might involve situations that concern the real duties of the police officers in the given situations. The dilemma, in this case, arises when the police officer is aware of the requirements of his job in a given action, but he feels that the duty does not exist and is just a waste of time. For example, the police officer was called to transport an elderly parent and get a house for her. The officer was aware that the family had already used the resources of the elderly parent to develop themselves and wanted him transported because he had a mental impairment (Cohen 65).

In such a scenario, some police officers could feel that they have no duty to perform since they are not responsible for getting houses for old people, while some officers would go ahead in helping the elderly to get home. These circumstances raise different opinions in the police force concerning the views in their role within the community (Heffernan 45).

In handling the situations of dilemmas, the officers should consider whether the laws and policies in place would yield ethical issues in society. If there is a policy or law to be followed and there are ethical concerns of whether to act as per those laws, the issue of disobeying the civil law and the duty is practiced. In the issue of ethics, Aristotle argues that virtues should derive pleasure from an individual and that pleasure derived by one person cannot be the same in another person. In the case of the police force, he explains that the police officers should act to derive the pleasure they need in their workplace. The issues of the law and regulations should not be followed if there are no virtues accompanied with the act for the officer to realize the ultimate pleasure (Cohen 67).

Plato, in his theory of Platonism, argues that morality in society depends on the result of that particular act. He, therefore, says that an act is said to be moral if its results are good and immoral if the results are bad. In the dilemmas of the police force, he suggests that the police officers should act depending on whether the result of the action will create good results for society (Heffernan 44). Plato, therefore, supports the argument that the police force can disobey the laws and regulations if the results of the action are perceived as bad by society.

Works Cited

Cohen, Henry. A Dilemma for Discretion in W. Heffernan & T. Stroup (eds.), Police Ethics: Hard Choices in Law Enforcement. New York: John Jay Press. 1985. Print.

Ginn, Beverly 2012, Chief’s Counsel: Stop-and-Identify Laws. Police Chief Magazine. Web.

Heffernan, Wickliffe. The Police and the Rules of Office in W. Heffernan & T. Stroup (eds.), Police Ethics: Hard Choices in Law Enforcement. New York: John Jay Press. 1985. Print.

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