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.
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.
Police say Deputy Craig Billings was off duty, out of uniform, and driving his personal vehicle when got into an altercation along a Sulphur street early Saturday morning.
They sure are adamant that Billings was on his own time. AFAIK, no arrests were made and no charges were filed.
Check out the original article. Mama was asked to bring her little darling to the door but instead she demanded to see a warrant. Everyone is a wise guy today right? And they learn half of that from TV. They all know their rights but none of their responsibilities and nothing about good citizenship which come to think of it is the libertarian ideal.
Me in this situation? I get my kid out of the bathroom, take him to the front door and let the cop charge him. I don’t say “Where is your warrant?”
Your contempt for common sense and common sense civility is idiocy. Go off and pray to your flying spaghetti monster god of libertine anarchy. And to your gods of cocaine, meth and heroin. Your new world drug order where you figure it will be a goof to laugh at the poisoned and the brain damaged.
That pesky Constitution really gets under your skin.
Not justifying the cop...his actions can't be justified...but I would really like to know more about the history between the kid & the cop.
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, ...
Refusing to stop & fleeing gets lost in the tail light issue somehow; but if the kid knows what the cop is like, then I don't blame him for fleeing. And fleeing a misdemeanor also doesn't rise to this level of response.
Fine. The Mom’s a bad parent. So her kid — the innocent one — deserves being pepper sprayed?
You are one sick bastard.
That’s right: Anyone who is concerned that cops are smashing in doorways and spraying children with pepper spray has to worship the gods of cocaine, meth, heroin and the spaghetti monster.
I think their actions were completely unjustified. I think they lost control of their emotions and suspect it had to do with the little delinquent getting away with carp too many times. That doesn’t excuse them and because they have demonstrated the inability to control their emotions, should lose their credentials.
Most of the rest of the citizens of the US would disagree.