Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Officer Mike Stanton did bad, hurt an old lady

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Drendolyn Sims suffered serious injuries as a result of officer Mike Stanton’s act of kicking down the front gate to her small, enclosed yard. Sims was standing directly behind the gate when it swung open, knocking her down and rendering her temporarily unconscious, or at least incoherent, causing a laceration on her forehead and an injury to her shoulder. Stanton unreasonably believed that his warrantless entry into the curtilage of Sims’s home was justified by his pursuit of Nicholas Patrick, who had committed at most a misdemeanor offense by failing to stop for questioning in response to a police order. Sims filed an action in district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated by Stanton’s warrantless entry into her front yard and seeking damages for her injuries.

. . . [W]e must determine whether Stanton violated Sims’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from a warrantless entry into her front yard and whether the contours of that right were sufficiently established at the time that a reasonable officer would have been aware that his conduct was unconstitutional. We conclude that Stanton’s actions amounted to an unconstitutional search. We hold that the law at the time of the incident would have placed a reasonable officer on notice that his warrantless entry into the curtilage of a home constituted an unconstitutional search, which could not be excused under the exigency or emergency exception to the warrant requirement. Stanton was, therefore, not entitled to qualified immunity.

Judge Reinhardt’s opinion, reversing the district court, is well worth reading in its entirety. I wish there were more opinions like this:

SIMS v. STANTON, No. 11-55401 (Ninth Circuit, December 3, 2012)

Written by Burgers Allday

December 7, 2012 at 5:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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