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Federal Court: Traffic Stop Does Not Justify Home Entry
theNewspaper.com ^ | 09/05/2011 | n/a

Posted on 09/05/2011 4:20:00 PM PDT by Ken H

US Court of Appeals rules a police officer cannot enter a home over a minor traffic violation.

A police officer has no right to pursue a minor traffic stop into a home, according to a ruling handed down Wednesday by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. A three-judge panel considered what happened after police in Sulphur, Oklahoma saw a suspect allegedly driving with faulty taillights on July 23, 2007.

Murray County Deputy Sheriff Craig A. Billings signaled seventeen-year-old Joshua Burchett, who was driving the car, to pull over. Burchett continued on for two blocks, parked in the driveway of his parents' three-bedroom home, ran inside and hid in the bathroom. Billings called for backup and Sulphur Police Officers Steve Watkins and Tony Simpson arrived at the scene.

Billings began kicking the door, which woke the parents, Jose and Christina Mascorro. Jose Mascorro opened the door and Billings pointed a gun at his head, yelling, "On your knees [expletive]. Where is he? Where is he?" When Christina Mascorro asked whether Billings had a warrant, she was blasted in the mouth with pepper spray. Billings then sprayed the other residents, including Mascorro's 14-year-old son. Christina Mascorro retreated to a back bedroom and called 911. Officer Watkins pulled her outside while Deputy Billings kicked in the door to the bathroom, gun drawn, to retrieve Burchett.

Jose and Christina Mascorro, after being treated at the hospital, were arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duty. The district court judge described the state of their home as "ransacked" after the officers left. The Mascorros sued, claiming the officers made an illegal entry, used excessive force and made a false arrest. The law enforcement officers moved to dismiss the case based on their qualified immunity from prosecution. They argued that their actions were justified because they had been in "hot pursuit" of a fleeing suspect.

The appeals court considered US Supreme Court precedent on the question to determine whether "exigent circumstances" authorized their entry into a home without a warrant. They found only felony cases allowed such entry in extreme cases.

"We do not find the circumstances here amount to the kind of exigency excusing an officer from obtaining a warrant before entering a home," Judge Terrence L. O'Brien wrote for the court. "The intended arrest was for a traffic misdemeanor committed by a minor, with whom the officer was well acquainted, who had fled into his family home from which there was only one exit. The risk of flight or escape was somewhere between low and nonexistent. Moreover, there was no evidence which could have potentially been destroyed and there were no officer or public safety concerns."

Police officers lose their qualified immunity if their on-duty actions violated a constitutional right. The panel found these officers could be sued because they violated the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"No reasonable officer would have thought pursuit of a minor for a mere misdemeanor traffic offense constituted the sort of exigency permitting entry into a home without a warrant," O'Brien concluded.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events; US: Oklahoma
KEYWORDS: donutwatch; dountwatch
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To: Ken H

Oklahoma? OK.


21 posted on 09/05/2011 4:47:27 PM PDT by Mr. Lucky
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To: knarf

Sulphur, Oklahoma is where this happened. Billings is the name of the main cop.


22 posted on 09/05/2011 4:47:31 PM PDT by rawhide
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To: Ken H

OOPS ... well, still ...


23 posted on 09/05/2011 4:48:15 PM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true)
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To: Mr. Lucky
Uhhh ... the synapses are starting to misfire.
24 posted on 09/05/2011 4:49:37 PM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true)
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To: USMCWife6869

“Just wow.”

That is right.

From “you might be a drug dealer” to “you might be a fraudster” to “your tail lights are out”. Tremendous.

I ALWAYS considered myself to be pro-cop, now I’m starting to see them as PART OF THE PROBLEM.


25 posted on 09/05/2011 4:49:54 PM PDT by jocon307
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To: struggle

It’s obvious the kid was scared to death.......and probably for good reason.


26 posted on 09/05/2011 4:50:17 PM PDT by Oklahoma
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To: Ken H

If these are the facts of the case, it appears the court is correct.


27 posted on 09/05/2011 4:50:43 PM PDT by Recovering_Democrat
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To: rawhide

Yeah ... I think I need rest ... or more coffee ... or more beer.


28 posted on 09/05/2011 4:51:09 PM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true)
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To: struggle

It’s obvious the kid was scared to death.......and probably for good reason.


29 posted on 09/05/2011 4:53:55 PM PDT by Oklahoma
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To: Soothesayer9
"That cop is lucky to be breathing."

Frankly, he shouldn't be. He is a clear and present danger to society. He should be sued into oblivion and fired, but that is not nearly sufficient punishment.

30 posted on 09/05/2011 4:54:00 PM PDT by Truth29
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To: Mr. Lucky

Well if the house wasn’t paid for before, it certainly is now!


31 posted on 09/05/2011 4:54:14 PM PDT by Soothesayer9
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To: USMCWife6869
Just wow. At least the court got it right this time.

Occasionally they screw up and get one right.

32 posted on 09/05/2011 5:00:02 PM PDT by Ken H
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To: Ken H
Related

Makes you wonder if the guy that told him to slow down owns a Gran Torino.

33 posted on 09/05/2011 5:02:50 PM PDT by PeaceBeWithYou (De Oppresso Liber! (50 million and counting in Afghanistan and Iraq))
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To: Ken H

At least the kid wasn’t operating a lemonade stand.


34 posted on 09/05/2011 5:04:13 PM PDT by The_Media_never_lie
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To: org.whodat

The 98% of bad cops give the other 2% a bad name.


35 posted on 09/05/2011 5:06:04 PM PDT by coloradan (The US has become a banana republic, except without the bananas - or the republic.)
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To: USMCWife6869
Just wow. At least the court got it right this time.

Anyone care to guess how the 9th circus court would have decided this one? Nah..don't waste the bandwidth.

36 posted on 09/05/2011 5:16:56 PM PDT by Don Corleone ("Oil the gun..eat the cannoli. Take it to the Mattress.")
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To: jocon307
I ALWAYS considered myself to be pro-cop, now I’m starting to see them as PART OF THE PROBLEM.

I came to that conclusion after Ruby Ridge and Waco.

37 posted on 09/05/2011 5:25:30 PM PDT by JoeFromSidney (New book: RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY. A primer on armed revolt. Available form Amazon.)
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To: Ken H

Good call by the court.


38 posted on 09/05/2011 5:36:54 PM PDT by Scotsman will be Free (11C - Indirect fire, infantry - High angle hell - We will bring you, FIRE)
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To: doorgunner69

Sure first it’s faulty tail lights, the next thing ya know they’re hawking the plasma screen to buy heroin! /s


39 posted on 09/05/2011 5:55:52 PM PDT by rawcatslyentist (It is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; ~Vattel's Law of Nations)
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To: Truth29
...He should be sued into oblivion and fired, but that is not nearly sufficient punishment.

Oh, I think that he's got his coming. One day (if he still has a cop job) he's going to kick in someone's door and get his a-- blown clear off.

40 posted on 09/05/2011 6:16:07 PM PDT by OldPossum
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