U.S. Fifth Circuit Case Update – 1st Amendment and Terry Stops

See the below two cases for important case law out of the U.S. 5th Circuit.  Case summaries compiled by The Federal Law Enforcement Informer, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).

United States v. Monsivais, 848 F.3d 353 (5th Cir. Tex. Feb. 2, 2017)

While on patrol in a marked police car, two officers saw Monsivais walking on the side of an interstate highway away from an apparently disabled truck. The officer stopped the patrol car in front of Monsivais and activated the car’s emergency lights, planning to ask Monsivais if he needed assistance. As Monsivais approached, he ignored the officers and walked past their patrol car. At this point, the officers exited their vehicle, and asked Monsivais where he was going, where he had been and if he needed any help. Monsivais told the officers where he was going, and while he appeared to be nervous, he responded politely to all of the officers’ questions. After approximately four-minutes, one of the officers told Monsivais that he was going to pat Monsivais down for weapons “because of his behavior” and for “officer safety reasons.” Monsivais then told the officer that he had a firearm in his waistband. The officer seized the firearm and the government subsequently charged Monsivais with possession of a firearm while being unlawfully present in the United States.

Monsivais filed a motion to suppress the firearm. Monsivais argued that the officer violated the Fourth Amendment because he did not have reasonable suspicion to believe Monsivais was involved in criminal activity when he detained him.

The court agreed. First, the court determined that the officer seized Monsivais for Fourth Amendment purposes when he told Monsivais that he was going to pat him down. At this point, the officer had converted an offer for roadside assistance into an investigative detention or Terry stop.

Second, the court noted that police officers may briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if they can point to “specific and articulable facts” that give rise to reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.

Third, the court concluded that while Monsivais’ behavior might not have been typical of all stranded motorists, the officer could not point to any specific and articulable facts that Monsivais had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime before seizing him. The officer testified that he never suspected Monsivais was involved in criminal activity, but rather that Monsivais was acting “suspicious.” As a result, the court found that the officer seized Monsivais without reasonable suspicion and that the firearm seized from Monsivais should have been suppressed.

For the court’s opinion: http://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca5/15-10357/15-10357-2017-02-02.pdf?ts=1486081834

*****

Turner v. Driver, 848 F.3d 678 (5th Cir. Tex. Feb. 16, 2017)

In September 2015, Turner was videotaping the Fort Worth Police Station from a public sidewalk across the street from the station. During this time, Fort Worth Police Officers Grinalds and Dyess pulled up in their patrol car and approached Turner. Officer Grinalds asked Turner if he had identification, but Turner continued videotaping. When Turner asked the officers if he was being detained, Officer Grinalds told Turner that he was being detained for investigation because the officers were concerned about who was videotaping their building. After Turner refused Officer Grinalds’ continued request for identification, the officers handcuffed Turner, took his video camera, and placed Turner in their patrol car.

A short time later a supervisor, Lieutenant Driver, arrived and spoke briefly with Turner as well as Officers Grinalds and Dyess. After Lieutenant Driver left, the officers went back to their patrol car, released Turner, and returned his video camera to him.

Turner sued Lieutenant Driver and Officers Grinalds and Dyess under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that they violated his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments. The officers filed a motion to dismiss Turner’s suit, claiming they were entitled to qualified immunity.

First, the court found that at the time of the incident, in the Fifth Circuit1, there was no clearly established First Amendment right to record the police2. As a result, the court held that all three officers were entitled to qualified immunity as to Turner’s First Amendment claim.

Although the right was not clearly established at the time of Turner’s activities, the court held that going forward in the Fifth Circuit, a First Amendment right to record the police exists subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The court did not determine which specific time, place, and manner restrictions would be reasonable, but stated that restrictions must be “narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest.”

Concerning Turner’s Fourth Amendment claims, the court held that the officers’ initial questioning and detention of Turner, before he was handcuffed and placed in the patrol car was reasonable. The court noted that an objectively reasonable person in Officer Grinalds’ or Dyess’ position could have suspected that Turner was casing the station for an attack or stalking an officer. As a result, the officers could have found Turner’s videotaping of the station sufficiently suspicious to warrant questioning and a brief detention.

However, the court held that Officers Grinalds and Dyess were not entitled to qualified immunity on Turner’s claim that handcuffing him and placing him in the officers’ patrol car amounted to an unlawful arrest. The court found that a reasonable person in Turner’s position would have understood the officers’ actions constituted a restraint on his freedom of movement to the degree associated with a formal arrest. The court commented that the officer’s actions in this regard were disproportionate to any potential threat that Turner posed or to the investigative needs of the officers. Consequently, the court concluded that handcuffing Turner and placing him in the patrol car was not reasonable under the circumstances.

Finally, the court held that Lieutenant Driver was entitled to qualified immunity as to Turner’s Fourth Amendment claims. First, under §1983, supervisors are not liable for the direct actions of their subordinates. Second, by the time Lieutenant Driver arrived, Turner had already been handcuffed and placed in the officers’ patrol car. Third, after Lieutenant Driver arrived, he immediately investigated the situation by talking with Officers Grinalds and Dyess as well as Turner, and he then promptly ordered Turner’s release.

1 The First and Eleventh Circuits have held that the First Amendment protects the rights of individuals to videotape police officers performing their duties.

2 While no circuit has held that the First Amendment does not extend to the video recording of police activity, the Third, Fourth and Tenth Circuits have held that the law in their circuits is not clearly established, without specifically determining whether such a right exists under the First Amendment.

For the court’s opinion: http://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca5/16-10312/16-10312-2017-02-16.pdf?ts=1487291433

Advertisements

The Garrity Case and Law Enforcement Officers

Garrity v. State of New Jersey, 87 S.Ct. 616 (Jan. 16, 1967) is a very important case for law enforcement officers everywhere.  It is also widely misunderstood and there are aspects of its implementation that are as of yet undecided.  The fact that this case is very important to law enforcement officers and still widely misunderstood underscores the value of the FOP Legal Defense Plan and attorneys who practice law on behalf of law enforcement officers every day.

It has been well-documented that one of the biggest legal issues people face is that they cannot afford access to the legal assistance they need.  Many legal issues go unaddressed.  I am sure that if you haven’t experienced this yourself, you probably know someone who has.  The FOP Legal Plan helps FOP members access the legal services they need.  I cannot say this enough:  Pick up the phone and call.  It doesn’t matter how important or unimportant it seems, pick up the phone and call.  As an FOP member, you have access to legal professionals at no cost to you beyond your monthly dues.  Pick up the phone and call.  Now, on to Garrity v. State of New Jersey.

Six individuals, including Police Chief Edward Garrity, four police officers, and a clerk of court were investigated by the New Jersey Attorney General at the direction of the New Jersey Supreme Court in connection with a ticket fixing racket.  During questioning, the employees were advised that:

  1. Anything he or she said might be used in a criminal proceeding;
  2. He or she had the privilege to refuse to answer if the answer would tend to be self-incriminatory; and
  3. Refusal to answer would be cause for removal from office.

The answers to their questions were used in their prosecution, over their objections, to secure their conviction for conspiracy to obstruct the administration of traffic laws.  The convictions were affirmed by the New Jersey Supreme Court and an appeal was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions, holding that police officers were “not relegated to a watered-down version of constitutional rights.”  Basically, the U.S. Supreme Court held that since they were given the choice of self-incrimination or job-forfeiture, the statements were coerced.  Since the statements were coerced, they were inadmissible.

We now hold the protection of the individual under the Fourteenth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits use in subsequent criminal proceedings of statements obtained under threat of removal from office, and that it extends to all, whether they are policemen or other members of our body politic.

Garrity v. State of N.J., 385 U.S. 493, 500, 87 S. Ct. 616, 620, 17 L. Ed. 2d 562 (1967).

What that boils down to for police officers is that any time their employer, or someone who is authorized to terminate the officer’s employment, informs an officer that the choice is answer questions or be fired, those answers, and any fruits of those answers, will be inadmissible in criminal proceedings against that officer.

First issue:  The person asking the questions must have the authority to terminate the officer’s employment.  For example, if an FBI Agent tells a city police officer that they are required to answer questions or be terminated, Garrity does not apply.  If a city police officer is ordered by his employer to answer the Agent’s questions or be fired, then clearly Garrity will control.

Second issue:  In order for Garrity to control, the officer must reasonably believe that he will be terminated should he refuse to answer.  If the penalty for refusing to answer is minor or non-existent, the answers will be considered voluntary and will be admissible.  It is preferable to have this ultimatum in writing.  At the very least, it should be audio recorded.  If it is not in writing or read into the record by someone in a position of authority, the officer will have to prove that he had a reasonable belief that he was under an order to answer questions or face termination.  This is not a sure thing.

Third issue:  Garrity does not stand for the proposition that officers have the option of refusing to answer incriminating statements.  It only stands for the proposition that police officers cannot be coerced into making incriminating statements by threatening their employment.  The cases known as Uniformed Sanitation I and Uniformed Sanitation II address refusal to answer and, basically, if the statements are immunized, an officer can be terminated for refusing to answer.

Fourth issue:  Garrity protects an officer from incriminating himself.  It does not mean that the statements cannot be used against someone else.

Fifth issue:  Garrity stands for the proposition that coerced statements are inadmissible in a criminal proceeding.  That may not include grand jury proceedings.

There are many other questions about the application of Garrity.

  • Can the ADA get copies of Garrity protected statements?  Yes.  If they do, they run the risk of having evidence ruled inadmissible as a result.  The DA may very well be able to use Garrity statements for Grand Jury proceedings.
  • What is the remedy if an ADA gets copies of Garrity protected statements?  That depends.  If it is possible to continue the prosecution if the statements or their fruits are excluded, it could be continued.  If, however, the statements or their fruits are so intertwined with the prosecution that there is no way to separate them from excluded statements, then the remedy could be dismissal.
  • What about statements made in police reports?  While officers are probably required to complete police reports or face disciplinary action, statements in police reports are not likely to qualify as immunized statements.  In general, statements made in the normal and usual course of business will not be immunized statements.
  • What if I write in my own Garrity warning?  There is a school of thought that if an officer perceives that he is answering questions under a thread of termination, that he should write that in.  I do not see a downside to that.  However, there is no real reason to believe it will be successful.
  • If I am ordered to answer questions, can I assert my 5th Amendment right to remain silent?  No.  In the Uniformed Sanitation II case, the court held that once you are immunized, you no longer have the right to remain silent.
  • Do the holdings in Garrity apply to breathalyzers, blood tests, etc.?  No.  Garrity applies ONLY to statements (testimonial or communicative communication).  See Schmerber v. State of California, 384 U.S. 757, 86 S. Ct. 1826 (June 20, 1966).
  • Are the contents of police reports subject to the provisions of Garrity?  No.  Documents written in the regular course of business are not going to be covered by Garrity.  In prosecution of police officer for beatings and assaults, the government’s introduction in evidence of the arrest report made out by defendant concerning the drug raid in which the complainants were arrested, and his grand jury testimony, did not implicate in any way his right against self-incrimination.  U.S. v. Rios Ruiz, C.A.1 (Puerto Rico) 1978, 579 F.2d 670.
  • What about Force Statements?  One could make the case that Force Statements are compelled testimony as the documents are created as a result of an order specifically related to the act in question.  This is not settled.  It is worth noting that most prosecutors believe these are NOT Garrity protected documents.  This may be a good place to include your own Garrity statement, but may very well turn into a trial-time fight about admissibility.

Is this a special perk of being in law enforcement?  Are police officers given some benefit not available to the average citizen?  No.  Everyone has the right to remain silent pursuant to the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Most people do not have government agents as employers.  Police officers, and other public employees, can be ordered to answer questions posed by government agents or face termination.  Private employers can order an employee to answer questions, but answering those questions does not place a private employee in the position of having to incriminate themselves to a government agent.  One way or another, the fact is that the application of Garrity simply allows police officers and other government employees to make use of the same constitutional protections as everyone else.

There are plenty of resources available on the internet regarding Garrity.  You can download the Garrity case by clicking here (.pdf).  You can download the Schmerber case here (.pdf).

Don’t hesitate to contact your FOP attorney with any questions about Garrity or any other legal issues you may encounter as a police officer.

Click here to download the NOPD Handbook app for your smart phone – https://apps.appmachine.com/nopdhandbook/promote/js

U.S. Fifth Circuit Case Alert

lafop-nep-logo-trans

Officer should be aware of the below case.  The Fifth Circuit held that officers who are aware of a constitutional violation can be liable under bystander liability if they fail to intervene.  In such a case, because the law is clearly established, an officer will be denied qualified immunity.  It is additionally a violation of many department policies (including NOPD) to fail to intervene in an unlawful use of force.

Fifth Circuit

Hamilton v. Kindred, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 623 (5th Cir. Tex. Jan. 12, 2017)

Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle were pulled over by Officer Turner for speeding. After Officer Turner smelled marijuana, he ordered the women to exit their vehicle. Hamilton was wearing a bikini bathing suit, and Randle was similarly dressed. Officer Turner handcuffed the women and searched their vehicle. During this time, Officers Ron Kinard and Amanda Bui arrived. After Officer Turner searched the vehicle, he asked Officer Bui to search Hamilton and Randle. Officer Bui conducted a body cavity search on both women while on the side of the road. Hamilton and Randle subsequently filed a lawsuit against the three officers under 42 U.S.C. §1983 claiming the invasive cavity searches violated their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Officers Turner and Bui reached settlement agreements with Hamilton and Randle. Officer Kindred argued that Hamilton and Randle failed to adequately allege that an excessive use of force occurred. In addition, Officer Kindred argued that he could not be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a bystander for not intervening to prevent the body cavity searches; therefore, he was entitled to qualified immunity.

The district court denied Officer Kindred qualified immunity. The court found that Hamilton and Randle had adequately alleged a claim of excessive force. The court also held it was clearly established at the time of the incident that bystander liability applied. In addition, the court concluded that there was a serious dispute as to material facts in the case regarding the objective reasonableness of Officer Kindred’s actions. Officer Kindred appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

First, to bring a § 1983 excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that she was seized. Here, the court of appeals found that Hamilton and Randle clearly alleged in their complaint that they were seized during the traffic stop when they were handcuffed and placed in the officers’ patrol cars. In addition, the women alleged that they were detained for over thirty minutes and subjected to invasive body cavity searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Second, the court held that Officer Bui’s insertion of her fingers into the plaintiffs’ body cavities constituted a use of force, which the plaintiffs allege occurred during their seizure.

Third, at the time of the incident, it was clearly established that it was not reasonable to conduct a roadside body cavity search, unless there were exigent circumstances that required the search to be conducted on the roadside rather than at a medical facility. Consequently, the court found that Hamilton and Randle alleged facts showing that they were subjected to an unreasonable use of force “excessive to its need.”

The court further held, at the time of the incident, it was clearly established in the Fifth Circuit that an officer could be liable as a bystander in a case involving excessive force if he knew a constitutional violation was taking place and he had a reasonable opportunity to prevent the harm.

However, because there were serious disputes as to material facts regarding Officer Kindred’s potential liability as a bystander, the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction to hear this portion of the case and dismissed Officer Kindred’s appeal.

For the court’s opinion: http://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca5/16-40611/16-40611-2017-01-12.pdf?ts=1484267434
*****
https://apps.appmachine.com/nopdhandbook/promote/js