Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

HOLMES v. RUSSELL (E.D.Ark. 8-13-2012)

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This case delves into an issue which I have wondered about for some time, but never looked into. Specifically, police arrested and charged Plaintiff on a criminal charge. The factual support for this criminal charge was not particularly strong. With the criminal charge pending, prosecutors offered Plaintiff a deal as follows: the charges will be dropped if Plaintiff agrees not to file a civil suit based on the arrest and the bringing of charges. Plaintiff signed that agreement (commonly called a “release-dismissal agreement” apparently), but then sued anyway (after the applicable statute of limitations ran on the previously pending criminal charges).

Apparently, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, these agreements are sometimes valid and sometimes not valid depending upon the circumstances. In this case, the court declined to honor the release-dismissal agreement, based primarily on the fact that the prosecutor who engineered the release-dismissal agreement believed that the Plaintiff’s civil claims had some potential merit (“[the prosecutor] does not state that she determined that Plaintiff’s potential civil claims were frivolous or marginal”).

Notwithstanding this potential merit of the civil claims, the court proceeded to give the police qi anyway because, from their perspective at the scene of the incident, there were some decent reasons to believe that Plaintiff had committed a crime.

Written by Burgers Allday

August 15, 2012 at 5:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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