Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

UPDATE: 11th Circuit decides that sloppy policeman gets qi after all

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I reported the district court decision in this case here:


Case: RHODES v. KOLLÁR, No. 12-10967 (Eleventh Circuit, January 17, 2013)

What happened: see my previous police4aqi blog entry, linked above.

New decision: District court is reversed, the policeman gets qi after all, despite his sloppy police work.

Personal Criticism: This 11th Circuit panel shows zero remorse that an innocent woman (who was just trying to do her cleaning lady job) sat in prison for months. It is one thing to find against the cleaning lady. It is another thing to do so without any trace of empathy, as the Eleventh Circuit did here.

Legal criticism: The opinion seems to admit that the cleaning lady had no intent to steal when she threw out valuable property pursuant to poor training. With respect to this missing “intent” to steal, the opinion states that probable cause does not require the policeman to “prove every element of a crime” before making an arrest. This much is true. I would go further. The law does not require a policeman to “prove” any element of a crime before making an arrest. However, what the Eleventh Circuit panel ignored here is that there must be “probable cause” on every element (including, but not limited to, the intent element). There was no probable cause of intent here because people usually don’t, in the overwhelming majority of thefts, throw valuable property in the trash when they are trying to steal it. There simply was no reason to believe that the cleaning lady did anything other than throw things in the trash, which is something that we, as a society, expect cleaning ladies to do. The panel should have realized these common sensical things and decided this appeal differently.

Written by Burgers Allday

January 19, 2013 at 7:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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