The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has recently made a very interesting ruling on the seizure of a citizen in 4th Amendment context when police officers turn on their patrol vehicle’s emergency lights. In March, 2019 the 10th Circuit ruled officers turning on their patrol vehicle emergency lights, and approaching a citizen in full uniform, constituted a seizure in regards to 4th Amendment considerations. We’ll break down this important Federal ruling, and how it may affect police tactics and procedures when investigating suspicious persons.
Police departments have been equipping patrol vehicles emergency lights almost as long as they have fielded motor vehicles in the field. In the earliest days of motor vehicles most States reserved red lights facing forward for emergency vehicles; Police, Fire, and Ambulance. As time moved forward many States and agencies have included blue lights as reserved for emergency vehicles only. Many Southern States law enforcement agencies use blue emergency lights exclusively, to distinguish the police from other emergency vehicles from Fire and Ambulance who use red emergency lights.