Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

11th Circuit finds it acceptable for police to delete cell phone photos

with 2 comments

Case: MAUGHON v. CITY OF COVINGTON[, Georgia], No. 12-12561 (Eleventh Circuit, January 28, 2013)


We similarly find no merit to Maughon’s claim that Officer Fuller was not entitled to qualified immunity for seizing Maughon’s camera during the Longhorn incident. To show that Officer Fuller seized her phone and directed that the photos on it be deleted, the only evidence Maughon introduced was the affidavit of Terry Tallow, manager of the Longhorn Steakhouse, where Officer Fuller and Officer Satterfield were dining. Tallow’s affidavit says that, “[t]he officer then asked that the picture on the camera phone be deleted but could not figure out how to work the phone. Thus, I deleted a picture from Amber Maughon’s camera phone, at the Officer’s request, and returned the phone to Ms. Maughon.” However, Tallow’s affidavit does not indicate which of the two officers asked her to delete the photo. Accordingly, as the district court observed, Maughon failed to come forward with any evidence to demonstrate that Officer Fuller took her phone or caused the photo to be deleted. Nor, as the district court further concluded, has Maughon cited any binding, clearly established law sufficient to notify Fuller that asking the manager to delete the photo from the phone (or, perhaps, accompanying an officer who asked that the photo be deleted) would violate the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Therefore, Fuller is entitled to qualified immunity on the federal claim concerning the Longhorn incident.

Comment: This decision seems plainly wrong to me.

Written by Burgers Allday

February 2, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I don’t know that its even a constitutional violation for the police to destroy evidence; even if the evidence is exculpatory and that is why they destroy it. You could probably make a substantive due process argument. But, there is a case in NE (LIVERS v. Cass Co., I think) in which the crime investigator not only planted evidence against an innocent person, but was CONVICTED of doing so; and yet that wasn’t the basis for his 1983 suit,. Rather, it was that his confession was coerced (which it was). …I’m not, of course, claiming that this is the way it should be..

    Bill O'Brien

    February 3, 2013 at 11:05 am

  2. destruction of evidence is a form of “seizure.” When the destruction is not “reasonable” then it will be a seizure that violates 4a.

    Burgers Allday

    February 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm

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