Skip to comments.Federal Court: Traffic Stop Does Not Justify Home Entry
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.
Just wow. At least the court got it right this time.
There you have it folks, nothing to see here, move along.
Just making the world safe from faulty taillights. All the rest was clearly justified..............
This is WAAAYYYY scarey.
We lowlanders just have this syereotypical image in our heads of rough n' tough cowby/rancher,elk killin' types.
Free, independent. don't phuque with me kind of people.
We don't envision Montanans having cops that are whiney gummint embed types ... like the ATF asswipe that came in to grab Elian Gonzalez.
Looks like we still have a few intelligent judges...oh boy, no immunity for the cops involved...cha ching..
No mention, but the victims probably did not have a dog?
Idiot cop, damn, IQ of a coal bucket. Not meaning any disrespect to a coal bucket.
My thought as well.
Sue the cops in criminal court. Send them to jail.
I guess they didn’t have a dog.
‘Roid rage much, officers?
Modern law enforcement is all about ego.
Much more detailed report here about the police thug and his illegal actions: http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=In%20FCO%2020110831051.xml&docbase=CSLWAR3-2007-CURR
While I aplaud the courts for getting this right, I fear that the next time this happens, they will be pursuing the suspect for “felony faulty tail lights,” and the courts will be fine with that.
That cop is lucky to be breathing.
Sulphur, Oklahoma is where this happened. Billings is the name of the main cop.
OOPS ... well, still ...
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.
It’s obvious the kid was scared to death.......and probably for good reason.
If these are the facts of the case, it appears the court is correct.
Yeah ... I think I need rest ... or more coffee ... or more beer.
It’s obvious the kid was scared to death.......and probably for good reason.
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.
Well if the house wasn’t paid for before, it certainly is now!
Occasionally they screw up and get one right.
Makes you wonder if the guy that told him to slow down owns a Gran Torino.
At least the kid wasn’t operating a lemonade stand.
The 98% of bad cops give the other 2% a bad name.
Anyone care to guess how the 9th circus court would have decided this one? Nah..don't waste the bandwidth.
I came to that conclusion after Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Good call by the court.
Sure first it’s faulty tail lights, the next thing ya know they’re hawking the plasma screen to buy heroin! /s
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.
Wow, same deputy. I’m surprised the Sheriff’s Dept. hasn’t fired him by now.
The majority of cops are just bullies with a badge.
Sounds like junior was a well-known trouble maker. Not that it excuses the officers' actions but it might be interesting to find out why they were so PO'ed that they threw all good judgment out the window.
Where the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye?
Getting back on topic now, what are your thoughts on the actions of the police in this case?
I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I wouldn’t feel bad if one day I read that cop took a bullet to his brain from some perp he was trying to bust. That’s just sick. The word “Nazi” is bantered about lightly these days, but if a cop is willing to pepper spray a child because his Mom asks the cop for a warrant after he illegally smashes down her door, what else can you call him?
Your little effin weasel ran into the bathroom. Of course you support such evasion of the law. This is a big big deal for you. And don’t forget your main platform which is to legalize all drugs. That will cut down on crime for sure. Legalize meth, legalize heroin and crack.
The police should have chilled and gone after the little weasel the next day with even more charges. But since they are not perfect like you psycho-delusional libertarians he lost his temper. If I were the judge I would dismiss any and all actions against the police here. Let the parents suffer from the sins of their punk ass son
You can look up my comments giving the police the benefit of the doubt in many cases, fighting long and hard even to defend the cops who shot the Arizona veteran and let him bleed to death after they found him crouching in his own home with a gun.
But damn, you write like a Nazi. Kill any gypsies lately?
I think the corn got the sh-t kicked out of it for suspicion of possession of drugs.
Over four years from incident to an appellate decision?
Our justice system sucks.