An informational History of and outline of some of the powers and duties of the Office of Constable in Pennsylvania follows ...
A Pennsylvania State Constable is an elected office held in Pennsylvania, although vacancies may be filled upon petition to that county's Common Please Court.
The Office of Constable in Pennsylvania has existed since 1664, dating the office as the oldest form of law enforcement in the state, if not the entire United States. The Office of Constable predates County Sheriffs, local municipal Police Departments and the Pennsylvania State Police - all of whom are defined as "ex-officio Constables", meaning that they derive some of their most basic powers and authority from the position of constable.
Modern day Constables are vital to the execution of warrants and the smooth operation of the courts. Constables perform their duties at essentially no cost to the taxpayer (see below). Other powers and duties of constables aid in supplementing your community's public safety personnel. Constables are not "first responders" in the vein of your local Police or Fire departments, but can assist with tasks that allow those professionals to focus on their primary duties such as patrol and investigation (police) , or firefighting and rescue operations (fire) by handling such tasks as local ordinance enforcement or traffic direction or fireground perimeter control. In light of the realities of our post 9/11 world and the present state of the economy, the Office of Constable may provide services and assistance in such a way as to assist their community, allowing local officials to maximize the use of their available funds and tax dollars.
It is the constable's job to enforce the law and carry it out, just the same as the job of district attorney's, sheriffs and the police generally" (see tn r» Ant 147 of 1990, 528 Pa., at470, 598 A.2d 9S5.
Pennsylvania constables have the right in Pennsylvania to arrest by warrant anywhere in the commonwealth, and to conduct warrantless arrests for felonies and breaches of the peace, including warrantless arrests for felony violations of the drug laws (see Commonwealth v. Taylor, 450 Pa. Super. 583, 596, 677 A.2d 846,852 [Pa. 1996]).
They also have statutory powers of arrest in certain situations (see e.g. 32 P.S. S582; S3 P.S. §13349.
Moreover, they are exempt from the need to have a carry license for their weapon while on duty pursuant to 18 Pa.CS. § 6106.
DEFINITION OF A PENNSYLVANIA STATE CONSTABLE
A Constable is an elected official and serves six-year terms.
Constables belong to the executive branch of government. As such, they are answerable to the governor of Pennsylvania. However, they are not formally overseen by any state agency. They perform services for the Pennsylvania Magisterial courts, but do not belong to the judicial branch. With regard to their judicial services, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has found constables to be "independent contractors that orbit the judiciary."
Constables are defined as law enforcement officers and as peace officers. Peace Officers are empowered to quell a disturbance or breach of the peace. A disturbance of the peace in Pennsylvania is defined as an imminent threat or danger to persons or property. For example, if a constable observes a public brawl, then the constable may arrest the participants for breaching the peace. According to Pennsylvania common law, a citizen may also have a limited power of arrest commonly known as a citizens arrest for felonies committed in view, but they are not given the shroud of authority or of being a state actor as a constable, sheriff or other law enforcement officer is given.
A partial list of the DUTIES OF A PENNSYLVANIA STATE CONSTABLE follows ...
Protection and Peacekeeping Duties at the Polls
Constables are also charged by Pennsylvania statute with maintaining order at election polls and ensuring that no qualified elector is obstructed from voting. Constables are the only peace officers permitted at the polls on election day. This duty is mandated upon constables; failure to protect the polls, or provide for their protection through appointed deputies, is punishable with a fine. In fact, Constables are the only law enforcement permitted within 100 ft of the polls on election day; police officers may only be present if they are in the act of voting or if absent a constable the Judge of Elections or a number of electors summons police, of if summoned by the constable on duty for assistance. Constables are paid a modest fixed fee set by the state for performing this duty that is paid by the county. (example: on duty from 700 am until well after 800 pm when the polls close, the 2010 compensation was $95; this includes patrolling multiple polling precincts within a township, or within the wards of a borough or city)
Court Related Duties
Constables may serve the court, but are not required to. When serving the judiciary, constables may serve judicial process, writs, arrest warrants, levies and collect fines. These services are regulated by ACT 49 of 1994 and ACT 49 of 2009 of the Pennsylvania statutes. The constable is paid for these services by fees which are specified in the statutes, and paid by the defendant in criminal cases or the plaintiff in civil cases.
In some Pennsylvania counties, Constables provide courtroom security and transport prisoners. For example, Chester County uses constables for all prisoner transports and courtroom security. Berks County also uses constables for prisoner transports and courtroom security.
Constables may also serve civil process. Unlike judicial services, civil process may be served by any able-bodied adult, and so does not require a constable, however attorneys or parties to such a suit may choose to us a constable for civil service items if they wish to do so. Constables or Sheriff's are required when enforcement of court orders is necessary.
Constables are required to complete Act 44 certification and training before performing any court duties, including execution of warrants, prisoner transport and provide courtroom security.
The certifications required prior to serving in such capacities for the court or to carry a firearm in the performance of any duties are detailed under PA ACT 44 - 1994 and PA ACT 49 - 2009
Constables are likely the most cost effecive and efficient law enforcement entities in the state as the draw no salary from the state / taxpayer. Court related duties are paid via a set fee schedule outlined by state law, these court costs are borne by the defendant in criminal matters or the plaintiff in civil matters. The constable commonly receives taxpayer funds for court related functions indirectly only in the instance that the constable is commanded by the court to perform service on an indigent person, in which case the county may pay the appropriate fee bill compensation as outlined by state law.
Constables must purchase their own uniforms, firearms, vehicles, fuel, bond, professional liability insurance, accessories, office supplies, etc ... entirely at their own expense.
Constables may offer other services such as peacekeeping, local ordinance enforcement, traffic control and direction and more on a voluntary or negotiated fee basis.
Each constable may, with approval of the President Judge in the county the constable is elected in, appoint deputies to work under his authority. Each deputy is given the same authority as the constable himself, but serves at the pleasure of the elected constable.
In order to have a deputy constable appointed, the constable must file a petition with the Court of Common Pleas and state the reasons a deputy is needed. A constable must show that a deputy constable is needed due to the volume of business or constable workload.
The constable may not seek appointment of a deputy constable in order to delegate all or most of his or her work to the deputy constable and must have a bona fide reason to appoint a deputy. However, a constable may appoint election day deputy constables to monitor polling places in their elected districts.
(substantial portions of the above courtesy of Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_State_Constables )