AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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False Arrest/Imprisonment: Mental Illness Commitment
A girl's high school
boyfriend told an employee at school that she had tried to kill herself.
The employee called the police and an officer was sent to the home where
the girl was staying, detaining her until a sheriff's deputy arrived and
took her, over her objections, to a hospital where she was subjected to
a mental health examination. The deputy allegedly falsely said that he
had a copy of a prior physician's medical examination, which had not actually
taken place, and wrote that the boyfriend had personally told him about
the alleged suicide attempt, a statement the boyfriend denied making. Both
the officer and the deputy allegedly ignored statements by the girl's father
contradicting the suicide report, as well as the girl's calm demeanor.
A federal appeals court upheld a ruling that the officer had probable cause
for his actions, but reversed a grant of qualified immunity for the deputy,
holding that if the facts were as claimed, he would have overstepped the
boundaries of the Fourth Amendment y taking the girl to the hospital and
then making false statements that caused her more prolonged detention.
Bruce v. Guernsey, #14-1352, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 1184 (7th Cir.).
Federal appeals court reinstates lawsuit by woman who claimed that when she tried to report her boyfriend's assault to deputies after she broke up with him, they would not allow her to file a complaint, and that they subsequently took her to a psychiatric center for commitment, which occurred because they lied about her actions. Her boyfriend was a town employee, and allegedly a personal friend of a number of the deputies. The appeals court found that the trial court improperly disregarded evidence which was sufficient to have allowed a jury to find that one or more of the deputies lied to get her committed, and that the plaintiff presented enough evidence that the deputies acted to have her committed in retaliation for her trying to file a complaint. Meyer v. Board of County Commissioners of Harper County, Oklahoma, No. 04-6106, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 8629 (10th Cir.).
When the officer had reason to believe, at the time he detained a man for psychiatric evaluation, that he had talked about killing himself, had access to a gun, was about to be served with a divorce act, had pain medication, was under a therapist's care, and was thought to have been going to leave a "goodbye" note at his daughter's house, his actions were justified. The officer was not required to believe the detainee's statements contradicting information supplied to the officer by his friend. Palter v. City of Garden Grove, No. 05-56322, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 13848 (9th Cir.).
Officer was not entitled to summary judgment on allegedly mentally ill woman's claim that he violated her clearly established constitutional rights by forcing her to involuntarily report to a hospital for a mental health evaluation when there was no evidence suggesting that she ever threatened to harm herself or anyone else, as required for such hospitalization under Connecticut state law. Additionally, the officer was aware that she had a valid gun permit for her firearm. Hoyer v. DiCocco, No. 3:04CV1526(CFD), 2006 U.S. Dist. Lexis 72823 (D. Conn.). [N/R]
Officers acted reasonably, under their community care-taking function, in transporting a man to a hospital where a doctor placed him on a 72-hour hold when they believed he might be hallucinating, but were not entitled to qualified immunity on his claim that they used excessive force against him in restraining him or after he was restrained when he did not resist them. Samuelson v. City of New Ulm, No. 04-3332, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 18167 (8th Cir.). [2006 LR Sep]
Officers who were aware that a man had made threats to "blow out his brain" with a gun and expressed threats of physical violence towards others did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights or Missouri state law in placing him on a 96-hour psychiatric hold at a hospital. The detainee also failed to show that the officers used excessive force in restraining him, as he himself admitted that he resisted them when they attempted to take him into custody, requiring them to restrain him through force and handcuff him. Additionally, his restraint only caused minor cuts and abrasions. Lacy v. City of Bolivar, Missouri, No. 04-2702, 416 F.3d 723 (8th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Officers did not violate any clearly established constitutional rights by transporting a man, who had engaged in "strange behavior" to a hospital for a psychiatric examination without his consent. Must v. West Hills Police Dept., No. 03-4491, 126 Fed. Appx. 539 (3rd Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Probable cause, rather than reasonable suspicion, was required to make a mental health seizure of an individual during an investigation of a report that he was suicidal. Probable cause was not present when the 77-year-old retired farmer, who was hunting groundhogs, complied with the deputies' orders to put down his rifle and walk towards them. Fisher v. Harden, No. 02-3996, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 3276 (6th Cir.). [2005 LR Apr]
340:54 Detainment of arrestee for up to 72 hours after he was found incompetent to stand trial for purposes of evaluating whether civil commitment for mental illness was warranted did not violate his due process rights; he had no established right not to be subjected to "more onerous" conditions, as a criminal defendant, than other candidates for civil commitment. Charles W. v. Maul, No 98-9290, 214 F.3d 350 (2nd Cir. 2000).
340:54 N.Y. officers did not violate man's due process rights by handcuffing him and taking him to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation on the basis of information obtained from his wife that he was a schizophrenic who was not taking his medication and was hearing voices. Mawhirt v. Ahmed, 86 F. Supp. 2d 81 (E.D.N.Y. 2000).
319:108 Police officer might face possible liability for taking motorist into custody and charging him with driving while intoxicated a second time after tests for intoxication proved negative; officer may have intended to assist motorist by taking him to jail since he was unable to pay for a hotel room and might not have been able to care for himself, but officer failed to follow state mandated procedures for protective custody. Qian v. Kautz, #97-3295, 1999 U.S. App. Lexis 2295 (7th Cir.).
319:103 Removing woman from her home and forcibly taking her to a hospital for emergency psychiatric evaluation could be viewed by reasonable officers as "not only reasonable but prudent" when they had reason to believe she might be suicidal, even if they were mistaken. S.P. v. City of Takoma Park, Maryland, #97-1218, 134 F.3d 260 (4th Cir. 1998). 305:70 Officer had probable cause to take depressed man into protective custody based on his consumption of alcohol, number of pills which appeared to be missing from his medication, and his phone call to psychologist; use of pepper spray to restrain man and take him to hospital was reasonable when officer had reason to believe man might be attempting suicide. Monday v. Oullette, 118 F.3d 1099 (6th Cir. 1997).
Sheriff and deputy were immune from liability for taking a woman into custody, pursuant to a judge's order to confine her as "mentally ill" and in need of restraint, despite the fact that she was taken to jail rather than to mental health center because mental health center because mental health center had no space available Radcliff v. County of Harrison, 627 N.E.2d 1305 (Ind 1994).
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