Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Homeowner arrested for failure to produce id on a knock and talk

with one comment

Case:  MITCHELL v. SHEARRER (E.D.Mo. 3-20-2012)

What happened: Police were investigating some kind of grass clipping mess and decided to knock on plaintiff’s door to investigate the source of the grass clippings.  When plaintiff answered, the policeman demanded identification from him.  Plaintiff refused, and was pulled out of his home and arrested and taken to jail.

Decision:  Police may end up being liable for arresting plaintiff for failure to produce id documentation.


Further, [Officer] Shearrer has not shown that there was probable cause for the plaintiff’s arrest.  Shearrer testified that plaintiff refused to obey a lawful command and thereby committed a crime in his presence. The command that plaintiff refused to obey was to produce identification. The plaintiff, however, was under no obligation to speak to the officer or to produce any identification documents:

[[When law enforcement officers who are not armed with a warrant knock on a door, they do no more than any private citizen might do. And whether the person who knocks on the door and requests the opportunity to speak is a police officer or a private citizen, the occupant has no obligation to open the door or to speak.   When the police knock on a door but the occupants choose not to respond or to speak, “the investigation will have reached a conspicuously low point,” and the occupants “will have the kind of warning that even the most elaborate security system cannot provide.”   And even if an occupant chooses to open the door and speak with the officers, the occupant need not allow the officers to enter the premises and may refuse to answer any questions at any time.]]

Kentucky v. King, 131 S.Ct. 1849, 1862 (2011) [Ed:  internal citations omitted, double bracket used for internal block quote].   An individual does not run afoul of the law by failing to comply with a police officer’s directive to do something that he is not legally required to do.

Written by Burgers Allday

March 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm

One Response

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  1. I personally am thankful for this most recent ruling which shows high integrity by the court in this case. Now, respectfully, what is the difference if a person is suspected of marijuana possession? There is none as relates to a person’s right to refuse. Mandatory video recordation should be required of ALL encounters by police with citizens, ESPECIALLY when a squad of police are alone with said citizen. Video would answer questions; proper law enforcement should welcome such recordation. Now if the wise legislators protecting us all would get it.

    Randall H. Trantham

    June 16, 2012 at 7:45 pm

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