In April we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Marshall County, as well as Deputy Jason Johnson for a vicious K9 attack against our client, Kandi Wood, that took place during her arrest for a probation violation. They filed a motion to dismiss all claims and asserted qualified immunity. The Court just ruled, depriving the deputy of qualified immunity and ordering the lawsuit forward, including the Monell (pattern/practice/policy) claim against the county for their K9 policy.
My client, Wendell Marcum, was arrested in his own front yard by deputies with the Brooke County Sherriff’s Department, for cursing during his interaction with them about a dog complaint. Yesterday we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the Wheeling Division of the Northern District of West Virginia, alleging multiple violations of the Fourth Amendment, as well as the First Amendment. Can the police perform a warrantless arrest of a man standing in his own front yard, for cursing and asking them to leave his property?
The law is clearly established that an individual has a First Amendment right to express profanity during an interaction with law enforcement. SeeCohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1972); see also Lewis v. City of New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130 (1974) (The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a conviction under a Louisiana statute that had provided that “It shall be unlawful and a breach of the peace for any person wantonly to curse or revile or to use obscene or opprobrious language toward or with reference to any member of the city police while in the actual performance of his duty.”).
The Supreme Court held in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980) that, “absent exigent circumstances, an arrest in the home or curtilage area around the home must be accomplished by means of an arrest warrant….” In Rogers v. Pendleton, 249 F.3d 279 (4th Cir. 2001), the Fourth Circuit held that police officers must have probable cause plus either a warrant, or exigent circumstances, to perform a search or seizure within the curtilage of a person’s home, and that if asked to leave, officers are required to leave and seek a warrant.
Supreme Court jurisprudence extends heightened Fourth Amendment protections beyond just the interior of the home itself, but also to the “curtilage,” which is the “land immediately surrounding and associated with the home,” because the curtilage is “considered part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.” Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 180 (1984). The Fourth Circuit has made clear that a warrantless search of curtilage is presumed to be unreasonable. Covey v. Assessor of Ohio Cnty., 777 F.3d 186 (4th Cir. 2015).
WV law creates the possibility for a criminal charge (disorderly conduct) due to a subject’s expression of profanity where: (1) The person is in a “public place” and where he (2) Disturbs the peace of others by “violent, profane, indecent or boisterous conduct or language; and (3) is requested to desist by a law enforcement officer and doesn’t. The West Virginia Supreme Court held in 2015 that the word “others” in W. Va. Code Section 61-6-1b (“disorderly conduct”) does not include law enforcement officers, but rather than some other third party must be present and actually offended by the subject’s conduct, in order to commit the criminal offense of “disorderly conduct.” Maston v. Wagner, 781 S.E.2d 936 (W. Va. 2015).
Kentucky Civil Rights Lawyer Chris Wiest just filed a federal lawsuit in Ohio alleging multiple constitutional violations occurring during the arrest of Demetrius Kerns, which was caught on viral bodycam footage. You may have seen Chris on some of my prior videos. He joined me to talk about the footage and the lawsuit.
There’s a huge update to the case where my client, Darius Lester, was shot by a SWAT team, while trying to sleep in his home. As explained previously, he had no criminal record and had committed no crime. The West Virginia State Police was executing a search warrant for that residence that was entirely unrelated to Darius. They claimed that Darius confronted them and came at them with a hammer, for which they charged him with a felony. That charge has now been to court….
This video comes to us from Hampton, Virginia, where a local high school math teacher got pulled out of his own car at gunpoint by a police officer, who mistakenly believed the car to be stolen. This happens all across the country, where police agencies have policies to perform so-called “high risk” or “felony” stops where their computer tells them a car is stolen. Often this results in innocent people being held at gunpoint by their government.
Here’s a prior post I did on the same issue for another video that goes further into the case law from similar incidents.
This bodycam footage comes to us from Richland, Mississippi, showing Ian Alexander’s traffic stop for speeding. Similar to the video I posted a couple weeks ago from Bexar County, this stop also documents a police officer who believes that he has some sixth sense when it comes to detecting seemingly innocent people who are actually smuggling narcotics. As in the other case, he was completely wrong and achieved nothing other than embarrassing himself and violating the Constitution.
This footage was submitted by Ohio native, Bud Swayze, showing an interaction he had with police in Chillicothe, Ohio, resulting in his bizarre arrest. All charges were subsequently dropped. What are your rights during a basic interaction with law enforcement?
A civil jury in Wayne County, Michigan just awarded a $9.3 million dollar verdict against a Dearborn police officer after he performed an unconstitutional arrest of a kid on a bicycle. The false arrest and ensuing excessive force during the “rough arrest” was captured on officers’ bodycams.
Tanner Rhinehart of Newark, Ohio, taunted the local police on their Facebook page after they failed to capture him on an arrest warrant. Eventually they caught up to him and taunted him right back. Here’s the bodycam footage.
Here are some screenshots of the social media interactions: