AUTHOR’S NOTE: This case is from the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and therefore establishes strong precedence, even with other Circuits. However, the staff at BlueSheepDog are not legal advisors, and strongly recommend that readers refer to their State Statutes and confer with local Prosecutors before taking action in regards to this decision.
The United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of United States v. Andino on September 16, 2014. The case centered around the warrantless entry by law enforcement into a home based upon the belief by officers that exigent circumstances existed – the destruction of evidence. The subsequent seizure of evidence in plain view once inside the residence was challenged by the defense.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is part 2 of a 2-part series on the increasingly difficult phenomenon of open carry by law-abiding citizens. In Part I the laws and actions of lawful gun owners in general opened the discussion into a hotly debated arena of gun ownership today. Part II will look at the legal responsibilities of law enforcement, and provide suggestions to law enforcement’s response to lawful citizens who open carry.
The Law Enforcement Response
So where do the current laws leave today’s law enforcement officers? In a very difficult situation full of legal land mines, that’s where. The law enforcement officer’s job is already difficult, but understanding how to properly handle citizens lawfully carrying firearms is really a newer phenomenon in the numbers we are seeing today. It is also a situation that officers must master in order to maintain officer safety and not infringe on a civil right.
The Legal Responsibility of Law Enforcement Officers
At one time or another every law enforcement officer swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and the Constitution of the State they work in. The iconic ‘to protect and serve” is heavily influenced by this oath, and provides the foundation that all officers should work from in deciding how to handle any situation. Sometimes the application of laws can be somewhat cloudy, but the beacon of correct decision-making always goes back to the Constitution.
The most legally dangerous decisions law enforcement is faced with making are those that require decisions in a fraction of time. Thankfully the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently sided with officers faced with dangerous situations that evolve very rapidly to determine if the officer’s actions remain within Constitutional guidelines. The landmark case of Graham v. Conner laid out the legal standard judging whether an officer’s actions were “objectively reasonable”, even if ultimately they were wrong in their initial observations or decisions. An even stronger admonition by the Supreme Court is that officers must be judged by what a reasonable officer would have done given the same set of circumstances. Officers cannot be judged by the micro-analyzed view of 20/20 hindsight that is often the measure used by the media and attorneys.
UNDERSTANDING THE LIMITATIONS OF ANONYMOUS CALLERS
A REVIEW OF NAVARETTE v. CALIFORNIA
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article reviews the U.S. Supreme Court case of Navarette v. California. The information is meant to educate the reader on the latest U.S. Supreme Court rulings on important law enforcement functions. However, like all of our articles, the information provided here should in no way be considered legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with their local prosecutors and judges in light of the Navarette decision to gain guidance on the acceptable level of enforcement in local jurisdictions.
Navarette v. California
This case stems from a 911 call to the California Highway Patrol. On August 23, 2008 CHP dispatchers in Mendocino County received information from their counterparts in Humboldt County regarding a reckless driver on Highway 1. The caller provided dispatchers the suspect’s vehicle description, a “silver, Ford F150”, and included the F-150‘s specific California license plate. The caller claimed the driver of the F150 ran the caller off the road and was continuing southbound on Highway 1 from mile marker 88. The information was broadcast about 5 minutes after the actual call.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is Part I of a 2-part series on the complicated issue of open carry of firearms. In Part I the laws and actions of lawful gun owners in general will open the discussion into a hotly debated arena of gun ownership today. Part II will look at the legal responsibilities of law enforcement, and provide suggestions to law enforcement’s response to lawful citizens who open carry.
Openly Carried Firearms
It is not news that today’s law enforcement officer has an increasingly difficult job. Packed with all manner of new digital and computerized equipment, changing laws that sometimes contradict decades of precedent, and the ever-present video from in-car cameras, lapel cameras, or citizens, today’s officer is put in the spotlight every time they hit the road.
One of those challenges centers around citizens‘ right to carry firearms. A constant thought and concern of law enforcement officers is a confrontation with an armed person. However, the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically guarantees the citizen’s personal ownership, possession, and carrying of firearms in most circumstances. So the job becomes an even more difficult challenge as an officer must consider individual rights while at the same time discerning if a legitimate threat may exist.
[Ed.note: This article reviews a court case (US v. White) that is related to protective sweeps. The case is not yet decided, and would not be binding on all jurisdictions. However, it is a case that would likely be persuasive in other courts. Regardless, the events in the case are likely to happen in all jurisdictions, and by examining the case now, we might be able to make good decisions when faced with similar circumstances in the future. As with all of our articles, this is not legal advice, and you should refer to your department’s standard operating procedures and legal counsel for guidance.]
Making an arrest is one of the most dangerous situations for a law enforcement officer, and was the leading circumstance during which officers were feloniously killed in 2012. Courts have recognized the real danger associated with arrests to officers, and often provide officers a wide latitude of authority to search arrested suspects. However the extent of the area that can be extended for a protective sweep has remained in the gray area.
Recently in Maryland v. King (U.S. 6-32013), the United States Supreme Court said, “Yes!”
According to the Court, the DNA identification of an arrestee “is a reasonable search that can be considered part of a routine booking procedure. When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
Defendant Alonzo King “was arrested in Wicomico County, Maryland, and charged with first and second-degree assault for menacing a group of people with a shotgun. As part of a routine booking procedure for serious offenses, his DNA sample was taken by applying a cotton swab or filter paper – known as a buccal swab – to the inside of his cheeks.” The DNA matched the DNA taken from a Salisbury, Maryland, woman who was raped in 2003. King was tried and convicted for the rape. While additional DNA samples were taken from him and used in the rape trial, there was no doubt that it was the DNA from the cheek sample taken at the time he was booked which led to him being linked to the rape and charged with its commission.
In Ryburn v. Huff, 132 S.Ct. 987 (2012), the Court held that, based on the existing state of the law, a reasonable police officer may conclude that the Fourth Amendment permits an officer “to enter a residence if the officer has a reasonable basis for concluding that there is an imminent threat of violence.”
The Case: In Burbank, California, several police officers responded to a call from the local high school regarding threats made by Vincent Huff, a student. Upon their arrival, Sergeant Darin Ryburn and Officer Edmundo Zepeda were told by the school’s principal that Huff “was rumored to have written a letter threatening to ‘shoot up’ the school. The principal expressed concern for the safety of her students and requested that the officers investigate the threat.”
The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit considered an appeal in the Florida case of Edwards vs. Shanley and Lovette (11-11512) that involves the question of whether officers are granted qualified immunity when a Police K9 bites a suspect for five to seven minutes during an arrest.
In this incident, Orlando Police Ofc. Justin Lovette initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Colin Edwards on the night of 12/17/2008. Lovette observed Edwards run a stop sign. Edwards pulled over, but then fled on foot from Lovette because Edwards knew he had a suspended driver’s license.
Lovette called for back-up and Orlando K9 Ofc. Bryan Shanley arrived with K9 Roscoe. Roscoe tracked Edwards a half mile and into an open field where Edwards said he laid on the ground prone with his arms spread.
The city of Franklin, NH is suing a former officer to recoup the cost of training him. Franklin required the officer to sign an agreement to repay the department for his training if he left the department within three years of the contract’s date.
For some officers, the lawsuit is not surprising. There are many departments that require an officer to enter into a contract promising to repay the agency for training as a condition of employment. Most of these contracts allow the officer to “work off” the repayment so that after two or three years the officer can leave the agency without owing the department any money. [Read more…]