Articles Posted in Constitution – Bill of Rights

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In this civil rights action Montanez sued the Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies for the warrantless entries into the plaintiff’s house, the deputies appeal the district court’s denial of their summary judgment motions for a dismissal. In their challenge they claim that the brief searches were justified by exigent circumstances.   The warrantless searches here arose when a deputy driving his unmarked car through a neighborhood that had a rash of daytime robberies saw a man behind a house who appeared to be looking around nervously while talking on the cell phone. He saw a second man approach the first man and begin huddling with the first man. The officer was convinced they were planning a break-in of the house.

Officer called for backup and when backup arrived they approached the men and handcuffed them. One of the deputies, Raible, entered the back door. Without crossing the threshold he leaned into the doorway and announced he was with the sheriff’s office and directed anyone in the house to come out.

After searching the two individuals they found two kitchen knives they believed were used to pry open the doors after having seen what they believed were fresh marks on the door jam.   When additional officers arrived they decided to enter the home a second time to look for additional perpetrators or potential victims. The second entry was the first into the homes interior and which the officers described as a sweep, which lasted 4 minutes. During the second sweep the officers saw in plain view what they believe to be marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

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Defendants Maxi and Bland appealed their convictions for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Their charges followed their arrest at 132 N.E. 64th Street in Miami and the subsequent search incident to arrest at the property. Subsequently a, search warrant was issued and wiretaps were authorized.

Defendant Maxi challenged the search and seizure of drugs from the apartment that took place before the search warrant was issued. The trial court denied the motion and Maxi appealed. As to the standing issue the court found he did have standing to challenge the search because he rented the apartment and had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the duplex.

The next challenge raised concerning the search was that the police illegally entered the curtilage of the duplex when 10 officers surrounded the building at night one with his gun drawn. The government responded that the entry was permissible under the “knock and talk” Rule. The court rejected the knock and talk argument because the rule implies that the police have an owner’s implied permission to approach a home and this was not the case here where. the officers here breached the curtilage of the duplex by many going through a gate in the fence and four or five approaching the door and the rest taking up tactical positions around the exterior. But the constitutional violation did not result in the production of any evidence and there was no evidence to suggest that anything would have turned out differently if a proper knock and talk have been done.   The court also upheld the district court’s finding that Maxi had opened the door voluntarily.

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In U.S. v. Johnson the court of appeals found an officer conducted an unconstitutional search and seizure when he removed a round of ammunition from the defendant’s pocket after conducting a pat down of the defendant who was a burglary suspect.  The facts show the Opa-Locka, Florida, Police Department received a 911 call about a potential burglary in progress at a multifamily duplex.  Behind the duplex was a fence that separated the duplex from the adjacent property.  The 911 caller described a black male wearing a white shirt trying to get through the window of a neighbor’s house.

Soon after officers arrived, the defendant was seen coming from the back of the complex through an alley.  He fit the description of a black male wearing a white shirt,   He was ordered to the ground and handcuffed and detained until they could figure things out.  Because of the nature of the call and the high crime nature of the area, the officer conducted a pat down of Mr. Johnson for officer safety.  The officer felt a nylon piece of material and then underneath it he felt a hard-like, oval-shaped object which led him to believe it was ammunition.  He removed it thinking that there might be a weapon nearby or another person in the apartment that may come out with “something.”  It was a black nylon pistol holster and one round of .380 caliber ammunition.

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In this case Hernando Vergara appeals the denial of his motion to suppress evidence found on two cell phones that he carried upon returning to Tampa, Florida on a cruise from Cozumel, Mexico. The search took place in Tampa where he entered customs. Vergara had already been on the list of “lookouts” by the Customs and Border Protection officer because of a prior conviction for possession of child pornography. An individual placed on this list is subjected to secondary screen at the border, which involves additional questioning and searching.

In the secondary screening the agent found two cell phones and initially the search a few apps nothing of interest was found until the agent came upon a video which depicted topless females he believed were minors. Another agent handling criminal investigations concluded the website distributed child pornography, though the video did not meet the statutory definition of child pornography. Because the agent did not have the capability to forensically analyze the phone at the port of entry, the agent seized the phone. The data extracted from the phone revealed more than 100 images and videos of child pornography on the phone.

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The Eleventh Circuit rejected Austin Gates’ federal civil rights claim against three City of Atlanta Police officers for arresting him without probable cause during a protest in downtown Atlanta. Gates claimed the arrest was in violation of the Fourth and First Amendments of the Constitution as well as various Georgia state court laws. Gates participated in a march protesting a grand jury’s decision not to file charges in the Ferguson, Missouri police-shooting. During the protest he was given a “V for Vendetta” mask by another protester. The mask was a stylized image of the Guy Fawkes character from the movie “V for Vendetta” and designed to cover the entire face. He and other protesters wore the same masks to express his disagreement with the grand jury’s decision and to maintain anonymity during the protest. At some point during the protest Defendant police chief Whitmire ordered the protesters to remove their masks multiple times over a loudspeaker and warned that any mask-wearing protesters would be arrested. After the warning, Whitmore issued orders to arrest any protesters wearing masks and the plaintiff was arrested. When asked why he was being arrested, the defendant officer did not immediately respond and after conferring with other officers, he was told the arrest was for wearing a mask. Gates followed with this complaint against the City and the officers pursuant to section 1983.

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This is an appeal by the estate of Shaw who was killed by a Selma Alabama police officer after the district courted granted a summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Shaw’s estate filed a lawsuit against the City of Selma, the police chief and the police officer for excessive force and false arrest under 1983 as well as several state law tort claims. Because the court found that Shaw posed there a threat of physical harm at the time he was shot, the appellate court upheld the dismissal.

Here is how the facts unfolded. The Selma Police received an emergency call from a Church’s Chicken restaurant about an incident involving a 74-year-old mentally disturbed man who attempted to enter the restaurant but was turned away because he had apparently there a few days earlier armed with a knife. When officers arrived, he was spotted at a nearby laundromat and the events were recorded on the officer’s body camera. There Shaw picked up an axe. The officer drew his weapon and ordered him to put down the axe. As Shaw left premises and walked toward the Church’s restaurant the officers followed him. At one point Shaw turned toward the officer shouting at the officer to “Shoot it”. When Shaw was less than five feet away moving toward him with axe in hand and still yelling at the officer to shoot it, the officer fired at Shaw and killed him.

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In this appeal Plaintiff Raymond Berthiaume sued Lieutenant David Smith of the Key West Police Department and the City of Key West. In his lawsuit he claimed he was falsely arrested, and claimed he was the victim of excessive force, false imprisonment, battery, and malicious prosecution at the hands of the officer who arrested him during an incident that took place during the Fantasy Fest Parade events in Key West.

The facts stem from an altercation between two gay men who formerly had been partners. Both men attended the Fantasy Fest parade with friends after which they went to a gay bar. Berthiaume was not ready to leave the bar when Jimenez was, so Jimenez waited by his car for a short time but returned to the bar to find Jimenez still there. Berthiaume led Jimenez out of the bar with his hand on Jimenez’s upper arm. Jimenez took the car keys from Berthiaume and ran down an adjacent alleyway. Berthiaume chased after Jimenez to retrieve his keys. Several police officer patrolling the activities observed the activities between the men and believed that they were witnessing a fight or altercation between the two men. Officer Smith ran toward the alley to intervene and he pushed Berthiaume on the shoulder to stop him from pursuing Jimenez causing him to fall and damage his wrist and jaw. Jimenez explained they were former partners and were trying to get back to together. Despite Jimenez’s unwillingness to press charges against Bethiaume, Smith arrested him and charged him with domestic battery.

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In Knight v. Miami Dade two Miami Dade Police officers discharged their firearms at the SUV Cadillac driven by the plaintiffs killing both plaintiffs.  The estate filed a complain against the officers and the Miami Dade police department for various civil rights violations and claim arising under Florida state law and this is an appeal form lower court rulings against the Plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were driving in the Cadillac after leaving a Miami night club. A police care began to follow them when they allegedly ran a red light. The plaintiffs denied running any red lights. The officers attempted to make a traffic stop using their PA system, but the care kept driving. When the Cadillac came to a stop at a dead end. The plaintiff’s witness who was a passenger said in a deposition that the car was not moving, decedent’s hand was on his side, and shots were fired into the car. However, in a statement made just after the incident the witness said that Plaintiff started backing up toward the officers and they began firing into the moving vehicle. As the care reversed it collided into the police car.

The case ultimately went to trial on the 1983 civil rights claim and the assault and battery claims against the officers

In the appeal the plaintiffs argue that there were six errors that entitle them to a new trial. The issues raised include the admission of evidence from the defendant’s police practice expert, the exclusion of the plaintiff’s ballistics and reconstruction experts, the exclusion of evidence showing violations of the Police Department’s pursuit policy, the refusal to give a specific jury instruction, the admission of some criminal history evidence, and the failure to address the prejudicial nature of the defendant’s opening and closing statements.

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In this civil rights lawsuit involving an officer shooting, the plaintiff, Evett Stephens, claimed a constitutional violation as a result of the excessive force used against him by Palm Beach Sheriff deputy Adams Lins as an individual and against Sheriff Ric Bradshaw in his official capacity as the sheriff of Palm Beach County. This is how the facts unfolded. Deputy Lin was on police duty monitoring traffic during school bus pickups observed Stephens riding his bike on the wrong side of the road. Deputy Lin decided to stop Stephens for some reason. Stephens claimed he was holding a cell phone to his ear while riding his bike prior to the stop. Lin says he never saw the cellphone. Upon hearing the sirens of Lin’s patrol car Stephens dismounted from is bike. Lin instructed Stephens to walk toward him while showing his hands. According to Lin, Stephens turned away from Lin as he began to approach Stephens. As soon as Stephens turned away, Lin shot Stephens four times leaving him a paraplegic.

The district court granted a summary judgment in favor of Sheriff Bradshaw as to the Monell claim against him following a length hearing. At trial, the jury returned a verdict against Lin for the 1983 excessive force claim and against Sheriff Bradshaw for the state court battery claim.

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Defendants Blake and Moore were convicted of child sex trafficking two underaged girls. The case arose when FBI investigations discovered that ads for prostitution services were posted on the classified website Backpage. Moore would take phone calls from potential customers who were responding to the ads and Blake would drive the girls to their appointments and provide muscle. The money was split 50/50 between the prostitute and the Blake and Moore. The FBI learned that Backpage ads had been posted using email address which the FBI learned had belonged to Moore.

In the course of the investigation the FBI executed a seize and search warrant electronics in Blake and Moore’s townhouse however the FBI could not access the Apple Ipad tablet seized due to its security features. The FBI requested and received a district court order issued under the All Writs Act 28 U.S.C 1651(a) (the Bypass Order) requiring Apple Incl to assist the FBI in bypassing the iPad’s passcode lock and other security features.   The FBI also obtained a search warrant directing Microsoft which own \s Hotmails to turn over emails from Blake and Moore’s email accounts, specifying emails linked to the sex trafficking charges. Finally, the FBI applied for and received search warrants for Moore’s Facebook account requiring disclosure of every type of data that could be found on Facebook account including every private instant messaging.

The defendant’s appeal challenged the Bypass Order on the grounds that the order exceeded the authority granted by the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. sec. 1651(a). Though the court of appeals did not rule on whether they had standing to challenge the writ against Apple, the court found that the defendant’s challenge of the Bypass Order failed because it was necessary or appropriate to carry out the search warrant issued, the assistance sought was no specifically addressed by another statute, the bypass order was no inconsistent with Congress’ intent, Apple was not too far removed from the underlying controversy, and the burden the order imposed on Apple was not unreasonable.

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