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Electronic weapons: Federal court in Seattle finds that only the first three of five discharges of the Taser® were objectively reasonable. The court concluded that multiple applications of a Taser cannot be justified solely on the grounds that a suspect fails to comply with a command, absent other indications that the suspect is about to flee or poses an immediate threat to an officer. This is particularly true when more than one officer is present to assist in controlling a situation. Beaver v. City of Federal Way, #C05-1938, 507 F.Supp.2d 1137,2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 64665 (W.D. Wash. 2007).

·         See AELE’s ECW pages for hundreds of case summaries.

Crime information roadblocks: If the primary purpose of a roadblock was not to determine whether a vehicle’s occupants were committing a crime, but to ask the occupants, as members of the public, for help in providing information about a crime in all likelihood committed by others, the checkpoint does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Information-seeking highway stops are less likely to provoke anxiety or to prove intrusive, the questions asked are not designed to elicit self-incriminating information, and citizens will often react positively when police ask for help. Illinois v. Lidster, #02-106, 540 U.S. 419 (2004).

Warrantless arrests: The Fourth Amendment does not forbid a warrantless arrest for a minor traffic offense, such as a misdemeanor seatbelt violation punishable only by a fine. Atwater v City of Lago Vista, #99-1408, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 2001 U.S. Lexis 3366 (2001).

Detention during warrant service: Officers with probable cause to believe illegal drugs were in residence could reasonably restrain resident from entering home for the brief period it took to obtain a search warrant, based on reasonable fears he would otherwise destroy evidence. Illinois v. McArthur, #99-1132, 121 S.Ct. 946, 2001 U.S. Lexis 962 (2001).

Drug roadblocks: The tactic was invalidated in a 6-3 decision. Court left intact the legality of other types of roadblocks. Indianapolis v. Edmond, #99-1030, 121 S.Ct. 447 (2000).

Interrogation: Miranda is reaffirmed by 7-2 vote; Miranda and its progeny govern the admissibility of statements made during custodial interrogation in both state and federal courts. Dickerson v. U.S., #99-5525, 120 S.Ct. 2326 (2000).

Stop and frisk: An anonymous tip that a person of a particular description and at specified location is carrying a firearm is not enough to justify a Terry stop and frisk by police officers. Florida v. J.L., #98-1993, 120 S.Ct. 1375, 2000 U.S. Lexis 2345 (2000).

Stop and frisk: Individual’s flight at the sight of the police provided officers with reasonable suspicion for investigative stop. Illinois v. Wardlow, #98-1036, 120 S.Ct. 673, 2000 U.S. Lexis 504 (2000).

Privacy: Allowing members of the news media to enter private residences along with law enforcement officers during the execution of arrest or search warrants violates the Fourth Amendment rights of the residents. Wilson v. Layne, #98-83, 119 S.Ct. 1692 (1999) & Hanlon v. Berger, #97-1927, 119 S.Ct. 1706 (1999).

» These and all other recent Supreme Court decisions are archived in full text at http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/

U.S. Courts of Appeals: 

Transit passenger searches: NYPD’s suspicionless, random searches of subway travelers’ baggage and containers have been upheld by the Second Circuit. The “program is narrowly tailored to achieve its purpose … [and] police exercise no discretion in selecting whom to search, but rather employ a formula that ensures they do not arbitrarily exercise their authority.” MacWade v. Kelly, #05-6754-cv, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 20587 (2nd Cir. 2006).

Fitness For Duty Exams: Federal jury awards $325,000 to a county employee ordered to undergo a Fitness for Duty Exam. Jackson v. Lake County, #01-CV-6528, verdict rptd. at 41 (2037) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 1219 (N.D. Ill. 2003). Prior opinions at 2003 U.S. Dist. Lexis 16244, 14 AD Cases (BNA) 1609 (9/15/03) and at 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7726, 13 AD Cases (BNA) 32 (4/29/02). Click links for (1) Docket Entries (and verdict); (2) Motion for Summary Judgment (9/15/03); and (3) Motion to Dismiss (2002).

Barricade-suicide: No liability for armed standoff at home which ended with suspect’s decision to kill himself and his son. Emolski v. City of Brunswick, 2002 U.S. App. Lexis 7129 (6th Cir. 2002).

Positional asphyxia: Hog tie on suspects with diminished capacity considered excessive force in Sec. 1983 action. Deceased was naked in an apartment hallway and hallucinating. Cruz v. City of Laramie, 239 F.3d 1183 (10th Cir. 2001).

Domestic violence gun ban: The federal Court of Appeals (D.C. Circuit) reversed its earlier ruling, and upheld the 1996 Lautenberg amendment against challenges raised under the Equal Protection Clause, the Commerce Clause, and the Second and Tenth Amendments. F.O.P. v. U.S.A., 173 F.3d 898 (D.C. Cir.); certiorari denied, 120 S.Ct. 324 (1999).

Other Courts:

Search warrants: Eighth Circuit reverses a lower court ruling that had suppressed the evidence obtained by a search warrant that was faxed to Yahoo. “The Fourth Amendment does not explicitly require official presence during a warrant’s execution, therefore it is not an automatic violation if no officer is present during a search.” U.S. v. Bach, #02-1238, 2002 U.S. App. Lexis 23726 (8th Cir. 2002). [PDF]

Positional asphyxia: Officers did not use “deadly force” when they placed an arrestee face-down and hogtied him, and were not liable to his next-of-kin for wrongful death. Department did not inadequately train its officers on the dangers of prisoner restraint. Price v. County of San Diego, 990 F. Supp. 1230 (S.D. Cal. 1998).

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