Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Lost in translation: Florida policeman swears out sloppy warrant affidavit

with one comment

Case: KOLLAR v. RHODES (M.D.Fla. 1-24-2012)

What happened: A Hungarian cleaning lady (who had been a police officer in Hungary) was trained to clean out a store after hours. The store had surveillance cameras. There was a misunderstanding about the cleaning instructions and the cleaning lady accidentally ended up discarding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cell phone tower equipment. The police officer who investigated swore out a warrant that said: (i) the surveillance recordings showed a movement pattern strongly indicative of stealing; and (ii) the cleaning lady was trained in her native Hungarian language so there was likely no misunderstanding in her instructions. These things weren’t really true, at least arguably, as evidenced by the surveillance recordings and by taped interviews with the people who trained the Hungarian cleaning lady. Nevertheless, the magistrate issued an arrest warrant, based on the misleading affidavit, and the cleaning lady spent several months in jail before she was assigned a decent lawyer and good sense prevailed.

Decision: No qi for the policeman. Although the cleaning lady did deprive the store owner of his possessions, it may not have been reasonable for the policeman to believe that the cleaning lady intended to do this because it may have been a whole lot more reasonable to believe that there was an unintentional miscommunication given the totality of the circumstances.

Written by Burgers Allday

June 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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