No Knock” Warrants and Search and Seizure Law Inside the Home

“No Knocks” are in the news following the Breonna Taylor shooting case. What is a “No Knock” warrant and when/how are they legal under federal constitutional law? One of my favorite topics. By favorite I mean that if I was a middle eastern dictator they would flow freely. This has been in the news now following the Breonna Taylor case. I’ll offer some analysis on that case, and also answer other civil rights constitutional law questions, if you have any – since this is LIVE.

Podcast version (audio only):

“No Knock” Warrants and Civil Rights Q&A – FIS Live Ep. 16 – thecivilrightslawyer.com Freedom is Scary

“No Knocks” are in the news following the Breonna Taylor shooting case. What is a “No Knock” warrant and when/how are they legal under federal constitutional law? One of my favorite topics. By favorite I mean that if I was a middle eastern dictator they would flow freely. This has been in the news now following the Breonna Taylor case. I’ll offer some analysis on that case, and also answer other civil rights constitutional law questions, if you have any – since this is LIVE.This is the FREEDOM IS SCARY livecast Episode 16. Please join me. It seems to be happening every Monday evening……thecivilrightslawyer.com
  1. “No Knock” Warrants and Civil Rights Q&A – FIS Live Ep. 16 – thecivilrightslawyer.com
  2. Should RBG be Replaced Now? – a Lawyer’s Perspective – Freedom is Scary, Ep. 15

Searches and Seizures in the Home and No-Knock Warrants, i.e., the “Knock and Announce” Requirement, Generally:

In the Home: No Warrant? Presumptively Illegal: Searches and seizures which take place in a person’s home are presumptively unreasonable, which means they are illegal by default according to the Fourth Amendment. On the other hand, outside a person’s home, Fourth Amendment protections only apply where there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Outside the Home: No Warrant? No Need unless REP: To the contrary, the U.S. Supreme Court has found that no presumption exists outside the home, because a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for most “places” outside one’s own home. These unprotected “places” include bank accounts, curbside trash, “open fields,” surrounding one’s home, and so on. 

Search of home with a warrant: presumptively legal: So since the inverse is true, all searches of a home, made pursuant to a warrant are presumptively reasonable. The standard for a warrant requires only that “there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” It is still a requirement, obviously, that police officers tell the truth when they make their search warrant applications. If it is discovered that false information was intentionally provided to the magistrate, the warrant will be fraudulent, and therefore ineffective. At which point, we’re back to the search being presumptively unreasonable. During the execution of a lawfully-obtained search warrant, officers may temporarily seize the inhabitants of the structure being searched, including handcuffing them. 

There is a default “knock and announce” requirement under the Constitution, though it frequently is ignored. Can officers make, or apply, for a no knock entry just b/c the homeowner has a CCW? Check out the 4th Circuit case out of West Virginia, Bellotte v. Edwards (4th Cir. 2011), authored by Judge Wilkinson. Judge Gregory was also on the panel:

 The knock-and-announce requirement has long been a fixture in law. Gould v. Davis, 165 F.3d 265, 270 (4th Cir. 1998). Before forcibly entering a residence, police officers “must knock on the door and announce their identity and purpose.” Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 387 (1997)….

“In order to justify a ‘no-knock’ entry, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by, for example, allowing the destruction of evidence.” Richards, 520 U.S. at 394. The Supreme Court has admonished that “it is the duty of a court confronted with the question to determine whether the facts and circumstances of the particular entry justified dispensing with the knock-and-announce requirement.” Id. We have thus required a particularized basis for any suspicion that would justify a no-knock entry. See United States v. Dunnock, 295 F.3d 431, 434 (4th Cir. 2002)…..

Of course, the absence of a no-knock warrant “should not be interpreted to remove the officers’ authority to exercise independent judgment concerning the wisdom of a no-knock entry at the time the warrant is being executed.” Richards, 520 U.S. at 396 n.7. But where, as here, the officers faced no barrier at all to seeking no-knock authorization at the time they obtained a warrant, “a strong preference for warrants” leads us to view their choice not to seek no-knock authorization with some skepticism. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 914 (1984)….

To permit a no-knock entry on facts this paltry would be to regularize the practice. Our cases allow officers the latitude to effect dynamic entries when their safety is at stake, but the Fourth Amendment does not regard as reasonable an entry with echoes, however faint, of the totalitarian state…..

It should go without saying that carrying a concealed weapon pursuant to a valid concealed carry permit is a lawful act. The officers admitted at oral argument, moreover, that “most people in West Virginia have guns.” Most importantly, we have earlier rejected this contention: “If the officers are correct, then the knock and announcement requirement would never apply in the search of anyone’s home who legally owned a firearm.” Gould, 165 F.3d at 272; accord United States v. Smith, 386 F.3d 753, 760 (6th Cir. 2004); United States v. Marts, 986 F.2d 1216, 1218 (8th Cir. 1993). We recognized over a decade ago that “[t]his clearly was not and is not the law, and no reasonable officer could have believed it to be so.” Gould, 165 F.3d at 272.

Bellotte v. Edwards (4th Cir. 2011).

The “Killing Power” of an AR-15: an Update on Walker v. Putnam County

We received the brief from the lawyers for Putnam County, West Virginia in the Michael Walker case, the AR-15 open carry case currently pending at the Fourth Circuit. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the video of the interaction at issue in the case:

The primary issue in dispute is whether a police officer can stop, detain and run a criminal background check, on an individual safely and lawfully openly-carrying an AR-15 style rifle. Putnam County’s law enforcement is arguing essentially that the AR-15 is a weapon of mass murder and warfare, and that it’s inherently suspicious of criminal conduct. Here are a few nuggets from their brief:

Finally, Mr. Walker’s argument that AR-15 style rifles may not be treated differently than less deadly firearms for reasonable suspicion purposes holds no basis in law, and is contrary to the public safety and intuitive sense. Different firearms have different utilities, purposes, and common uses, and their presence therefore draws different inferences. An AR-15 has more killing power, and is more commonly used in indiscriminate public gun violence than many more commonplace sporting or self-defense weapons, and therefore raises a greater concern for public safety in context. The fact that the AR-15 is so notoriously popular among the deadliest mass shooters also raises reasonable concerns over a copycat mass shooting. Objects need not be illegal for their presence, in appropriate context, to contribute to reasonable suspicion, and there is no reason for bearers of AR-15 style rifles to receive special protection.

“Killing Power?” Is that a scientific unit of measurement. If shotguns are okay, or a bolt-action hunting rifle is okay, then I wonder if they’re aware that an AR-15 uses a .223 caliber diameter round, which is unlawful to use for hunting in some states because it’s too small of a caliber, and therefore not deadly enough for game such as deer (as compared to the good ‘ole .308 or .270 Winchester calibers, etc., etc.).

This is a suburban residential and commercial area which is unsuitable for hunting or target shooting, and Mr. Walker was not wearing any items of blaze orange, or anything else which would signal to an observer that his intention was hunting. (See id.). Furthermore, this interaction occurred in February, when almost no commonly hunted animals, with the exception of noxious pests, are in season. Nor is an AR- 15 a weapon commonly used for hunting, such as a deer rifle or shotgun, or carried for self-defense, such as the handgun possessed by Mr. Troupe in Black. I

Was I the only one who just saw something happen on the news recently involving an AR-15 openly carried for self-defense, and used in self-defense? I think I recall something like that in the news. I bet this is also news to all their law enforcement officers in their county, and surrounding counties, who have an AR-15 in the police cruisers. Those are for hunting, right? Definitely not self defense. It appears that they just don’t like the AR-15:

The mass shooter’s preference for AR-15’s is because, as former U. S. Marine infantry officer and author of “The Gun,” a history of assault rifles and their effects upon security and war, C. J. Chivers, wrote in a February 28, 2018 New York Times column: When a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, he was carrying an AR-15-style rifle that allowed him to fire upon people in much the same way that many American soldiers and Marines would fire their M16 and M4 rifles in combat. See Chivers, C. J., Larry Buchanan, Denise Lu, and Karen Yourish, With AR-15s, Mass Shooters Attack With the Rifle Firepower Typically Used by Infantry Troops, The New York Times (Feb. 28, 2018),

In sum, AR-15 style rifles give the wielder the capability to kill more people in a shorter amount of time than more commonplace styles of firearm, making it an appealing choice for a would-be mass shooter whose goal is exactly that, and a greater danger to public safety than would more commonplace, less-powerful, lower-capacity firearms, such as shotguns or handguns.

How is a .223 caliber rifle “more powerful” than a .308 bolt action hunting rifle? I wonder if they know that the M-60 machine gun is chambered in .308? I wonder if they know that our military has snipers who kill human beings with what are essentially hunting rifles chambered in the same caliber as hunting rifles, such as .308 caliber? They don’t chamber sniper rifles in .223 caliber found in AR-15s, because they are not powerful enough. Complete hogwash……

As discussed in prior sections of this brief, AR-15 style rifles have been featured in substantially all of the deadliest mass shootings in this decade. Mass murderers in Las Vegas and Orlando have killed and wounded over one hundred people in a single event with AR-15. Revolvers and bolt-action deer rifles do not share that infamy. It is therefore reasonable to infer that a person attempting to copycat a mass shooting would likely use the weapon of choice of mass shooters. If officers are concerned about a potential mass shooter, certainly they would justifiably be more concerned by a person carrying an AR-15 than one of the many firearms more commonly used for hunting or self-defense. Different inferences may be reasonably drawn from the presence of different firearms, because different firearms are used for different things: a person viewed at a gun range carrying a shotgun may be presumed to be there to shoot clay pigeons, whereas a person carrying a rifle is almost certainly not.

This is coming from the first county in the State of West Virginia to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” L.O.L. Also, by the way, there was no indication whatsoever that there was any indication or concern that Michael Walker could have been a copycat mass-murderer. That was all made up by lawyers after the lawsuit was filed. The entire incident was filmed. The entire 911 transcript exists. There was nothing that day to concern law enforcement, nor which did concern law enforcement, that Michael was a threat to a school. It was merely harassment for openly carrying a lawful and safely carried AR-15 style rifle.

Next we get to file a Reply Brief, responding to their response. At that point it will be in the hands of the Court. They can hold oral arguments, or rule on their briefs.

FILED: Bridge Cafe & Bistro’s federal lawsuit against the W. Va. Governor and Putnam County

This afternoon I filed a federal lawsuit against the West Virginia Governor and against Putnam County, and their health department inspector, on behalf of the Bridge Cafe & Bistro, located in Hurricane, West Virginia. We are seeking money damages and attorney’s fees for First Amendment retaliation, after Putnam County threatened my clients with closure in response to their Facebook post expressing their opinions and policies pertaining to the Governor’s mask mandate. We are also suing the Governor and asking the Court to declare the mask mandate, as well as the “Stay at Home Order” unconstitutional and unenforceable.

We believe it’s unconstitutional under the First Amendment, as the mask debate has become just that – political speech. We also believe they are in violation of the 14th Amendment due process clause because they’re an arbitrary deprivation of my clients’ property interests wholly without due process of law. Moreover, they’re also a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, because they treated restaurants in Putnam County, where only two deaths have occurred in over 6 months of the virus, just the same as they treated restaurants where the virus had a greater impact.

Additionally, we believe yesterday’s ruling from Judge Stickman in the Western District of Pennsylvania makes a good case that a Governor unilaterally choosing who is “essential” and who is “non-essential” in smoky rooms, rather than through an open, defined and rational process, is itself a constitutional violation. The Governor cannot enact legislation, period. Not in a time of war; not in a “State of Emergency” which has lasted over 6 months. The sole process for enactment of new laws in West Virginia is via the state legislature, according to the state Constitution. To the extent that counties attempt to enforce unconstitutional and unenforceable executive orders as if they were laws, we believe they can be sued for money damages under Section 1983.

Here’s the actual lawsuit which was filed this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. It doesn’t yet have a case number:

And…we’re off…. First media reports:

https://wvrecord.com/stories/555093294-putnam-county-restaurant-owners-challenge-state-s-stay-at-home-order-mask-mandate

https://www.wsaz.com/2020/09/15/federal-lawsuit-filed-against-wva-governors-office-and-some-county-officials-for-restaurant-mask-mandate/

https://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/hurricane-restaurant-challenges-wv-governors-covid-19-mandates/article_11a73129-4f6e-5021-a955-810de5e358aa.html

Freedom is Scary Ep. 6: Black Rifle Rights and the FBI Lawyer

Also the new 9th Circuit opinion, firearms history and I’ll show you an authentic Model 1866 Winchester Assault Rifle.

Duncan v. Becerra ruling 9th Circuit:

On Friday, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed (by a 2-1 vote) a federal district court’s ruling that so-called “large capacity” magazines are protected by the Second Amendment. In the live cast, I discussed the ruling and the great foundation it lays for inclusion and equal treatment of AR-15 style rifles in the context of the 2nd and 4th Amendments. I may be the first lawyer to have cited this language, since it came down the same day I filed the brief in the Walker case:

“That LCMs [large capacity magazines] are commonly used today for lawful purposes ends the inquiry into unusualness. But the record before us goes beyond what is necessary under Heller: Firearms or magazines holding more than ten rounds have been in existence — and owned by American citizens — for centuries. Firearms with greater than ten round capacities existed even before our nation’s founding, and the common use of LCMs for self-defense is apparent in our shared national history.

Semi-automatic and multi-shot firearms were not novel or unforeseen inventions to the Founders, as the first firearm that could fire more than ten rounds without reloading was invented around 1580. Rapid fire guns, like the famous Puckle Gun, were patented as early as 1718 in London. Moreover, British soldiers were issued magazine-fed repeaters as early as 1658. As a predecessor to modern revolvers, the Pepperbox pistol design pre-dates the American Revolution by nearly one hundred years, with common variants carrying five to seven shots at the ready and with several European variants able to shoot 18 or 24 shots before reloading individual cylinders. Similarly, breech-loading, repeating rifles were conceptualized as early as 1791.

After the American Revolution, the record shows that new firearm designs proliferated throughout the states and few restrictions were enacted on firing capacities. The Girandoni air rifle, developed in 1779, had a 22-round capacity and was famously carried on the Lewis and Clark expedition. In 1821, the Jennings multi-shot flintlock rifle could fire 12 shots without reloading. Around the late antebellum period, one variant of the Belgian Mariette Repeating Pepperbox could fire 18 shots without reloading. Pepperbox pistols maintained popularity over smaller- capacity revolvers for decades, despite the latter being of newer vintage. At this time, revolving rifles were also developed like the Hall rifle that held 15 shots.

The advent of repeating, cartridge-fed firearms occurred at the earliest in 1855 with the Volcanic Arms lever-action rifle that contained a 30-round tubular magazine, and at the latest in 1867, when Winchester created its Model 66, which was a full-size lever-action rifle capable of carrying 17 rounds. The carbine variant was able to hold 12 rounds. Repeating rifles could fire 18 rounds in half as many seconds, and over 170,000 were sold domestically. The Model 66 Winchester was succeeded by the Model 73 and Model 92, combined selling over 1.7 million total copies between 1873 and 1941.

The innovation of the self-contained cartridge along with stronger steel alloys also fostered development in handguns, making them smaller and increasing their capacities. Various revolver designs from France and Germany enabled up to 20 shots to be fired without reloading. A chain-fed variant, the French Guycot, allowed pistols to carry up to 32 shots and a rifle up to 100 shots. One American manufacturer experimented with a horizontally sliding “row of chambers” (an early stacked magazine) through a common frame, dubbed the Jarre “harmonica” pistol, holding ten rounds and patented in 1862. In 1896, Mauser developed what might be the first semi-automatic, recoil-operated pistol — the “Broomhandle” — with a detachable 20-round magazine. Luger’s semiautomatic pistol hit the market in 1899 and came with seven or eight round magazines, although a 32- round drum magazine was widely available.

In 1935, Browning developed the 13-round Hi-Power pistol which quickly achieved mass-market success. Since then, new semi-automatic pistol designs have replaced the revolver as the common, quintessential, self-defense weapon. Many of these pistol models have increased magazine capacities as a result of double-stacked magazines. One of the most popular handguns in America today is the Glock 17, which comes standard with a magazine able to hold 17 bullets.

Rifle magazine development paralleled that of pistol magazines. In 1927, Auto Ordinance Company released its semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round magazine. A decade and a half later, the M-1 carbine was invented for the “citizen soldier” of WWII. The M-1 remained a common and popular rifle for civilians after the war. In 1963, almost 250,000 M- 1s, capable of holding between 15 and 30 rounds, were sold at steeply discounted prices to law-abiding citizens by the federal government. The ultimate successor to the M-1 was the M-16, with a civilian version dubbed the Armalite Model 15, or AR-15. The AR-15 entered the civilian market in 1963 with a standard 20-round magazine and remains today the “most popular rifle in American history.” The AR- 15 was central to a 1994 Supreme Court case in which the Court noted that semiautomatic rifles capable of firing “only one shot with each pull of the trigger” “traditionally have been widely accepted as lawful possessions.” Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600, 602 n.1, 603, 612 (1994). By the early-1970s, the AR-15 had competition from other American rifle models, each sold with manufacturer- standard 20-round or greater magazines. By 1980, comparable European models with similar capacities entered the American market.

The point of our long march through the history of firearms is this: The record shows that firearms capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition have been available in the United States for well over two centuries.7 While the Supreme Court has ruled that arms need not have been common during the founding era to receive protection under the Second Amendment, the historical prevalence of firearms capable of holding more than ten bullets underscores the heritage of LCMs in our country’s history. See Heller, 554 U.S. at 582.”

Read the order here:

https://www.firearmspolicy.org/9th-circuit-holds-large-capacity-firearm-magazines-protected-2nd-amendment

Walker Case – the AR-15 Open Carry Case – Opening Brief is filed

Well, here’s our opening brief in the Walker v. Putnam County, et al. open carry case. This went from a relatively simple search and seizure Section 1983 civil lawsuit, to a battle over gun rights and whether or not the AR-15 is entitled to equal treatment under the law at the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the case where my client was stopped, harassed, and called a co@ksucker, twice, for trying to mind his own business and go coyote hunting. Just one nugget out of the video:

It is your fault! Because you co$ksuckers . . . start it.  I ask you for ID – when a law enforcement officer asks you for ID, it’s not “I don’t have to provide it,” it’s “here it is, sir,” because, by law, you fucking got to give it, when you are asked for it.  And if you think you don’t, [then] press the issue, we’ll find out; I’ll hook you, book you, jamb you in the jail; and then you can’t answer to a God damned judge.

At the urging of Putnam County (W. Va.), the Court ruled against us at the trial court level, and well, ruled against AR-15 style rifles as well:

Here, Walker’s possession of an AR-15-style rifle under these circumstances was unusual and alarming. Whereas possessing an AR-15 at a shooting range or on one’s own property would not raise an eyebrow, there was no obvious reason for the rifle’s possession here. Unlike a holstered handgun, like that at issue in U.S. v. Black, AR-15s are not commonly carried for self-defense. 707 F.3d at 535. Nor are they traditionally used for hunting. 

Seeing Walker at 6:00 p.m. in February in an urban area would further diminish an inference that Walker possessed the rifle for hunting because the sun would soon set and hunting after dark is generally prohibited. The rifle being uncased, ready to fire at a moment’s notice, and Walker’s camouflage pants also contributed to an unusual presentation of the firearm. 

(Read the ruling itself here: https://thecivilrightslawyer.com/2020/03/02/federal-court-rules-against-us-in-the-walker-case-let-the-appeal-begin/)

Why might you care about these issues? If you live in the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit (WV, VA, MD, NC, SC), and in particular one of the open carry states therein (WV, VA, and NC) then the outcome of this case will affect your rights one way or the other. We’ve had a couple of really bad gun rights decisions handed down in the Fourth Circuit in 2017 (US v. Robinson and the Kolbe case). If we lose this one, our last vestige of gun freedoms, contained in the holding of US v. Black (2013) will be overturned.

Since AR-15 style rifles are completely legal to possess in West Virginia, including in the context of open carry, we had to appeal, and we had to cover a lot of ground in our opening brief. Mind you, there’s a page limit, and I spent hours deleting great arguments I had already written, as well as great quotes I wanted to include, in order to bring it under the page limit:

Here’s a live video I did on the case last night. The entire incident was recorded, and is shown/discussed at around the 12:00 mark. The original video’s still up on our channel as well.

Here’s the original video, if you haven’t seen it already:

The legal challenge to the WV Governor continues

Here’s the live cast video I did yesterday on the ongoing fight against the West Virginia Governor’s COVID related executive orders, such as the so-called “mask mandate” and other restrictions:

There was a great article in The Federalist yesterday by Molly McCann, titled, “Governors Can’t Use Coronavirus To Indefinitely Declare A State Of Emergency. This is exactly what I’ve been saying:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia often noted that the primary safeguard of our constitutional liberties is the structure of our government. Every banana republic has a bill of rights, he once said, but the strength of the American system is the separation of powers.

At the federal level, there are three separate, co-equal branches of government that must operate together for our representative republic to function properly, and this balance of power is mirrored at the state level. Unhappily, our system today is not functioning as designed.

There’s technically nothing currently protecting us from experiencing what’s happening in Australia right now. A governor – especially in WV – could just order us to stay in our homes indefinitely, and nothing currently in place would be able to stop them. The longer we allow unchecked executive control to continue, the greater the damage to our system of government. We in WV have even less protections than other states when it comes to a governor instituting an indefinite state of emergency power grab. At the very least, we’ll still have the ballot box (if the governors don’t restrict us to mail-in voting, of course):

Most state statutes automatically terminate emergency authority after a 30- or 60-day period, unless specifically extended by the governor. This highlights that emergencies are assumed to be of short duration. Our current quandary is that governors are using COVID as an excuse to extend their authority indefinitely.

If the governors are empowered to declare and continue a state of emergency, what is the remedy? The Founders believed the first and most powerful check on the executive would be the ballot box. In modern practice, one of the best checks on the individual policies an executive contemplates has been the resistance of the electorate in real-time. The coronavirus crisis has once again proved that state and local races matter deeply.

Unfortunately, West Virginia’s emergency statute does not have an automatic shut-off valve. It continues until the Governor steps down from the throne, or until a majority of the legislature votes to stop it. Then we have the issue of the legislature not being in session to do so until February of 2021….

As Ms. McCann opines, when the legislature does get a chance to do its thing, rather than just squabble over federal COVID money, they need to take immediate action to stop future gubernatorial tyrants, who very well may be worse than the one we have right now:

To declare emergencies, to close businesses and confine Americans to their homes, to mandate masks, to limit access to churches, to suspend your civil liberties, the governors point to power enumerated by statute—that is, defined by the legislature. Where the legislature defined the terms, it can redefine the terms. Where they are empowered to do so, state legislatures must begin to declare the emergency at an end, rebuke the governors’ power grabs, and recalibrate the allocation of power to its proper balance among the branches.

Unfortunately, rather than reclaiming authority from governors, many state legislatures right now are fighting over which branch gets to decide how to spend the federal dollars states are receiving in emergency aid. It is not clear that the balance of power will naturally revert to normal any time soon.

(emphasis added)

Under West Virginia law, the legislature may not delegate its core legislative responsibility to a governor. They’ve tried before, and were smacked down by the State Supreme Court. But to the extent that it has done so already, or to the extent that the Governor thinks they did so, it needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. The legislature should completely re-write the emergency powers statute to protect the people. And to protect themselves, frankly.

Freedom is Scary Livecast No. 2 – WV Delegates Jim Butler and S. Marshal Wilson

Today’s “Freedom is Scary” Livecast discussion with West Virginia patriot legislators, Marshal Wilson and Jim Butler. On our lawsuit against the WV Governor, freedom, history, the gubernatorial race, and more.

Download or listen to the audio-only Podcast version: https://thejohnbryanpodcast.podbean.com/e/freedom-is-scary-episode-2-lawsuit-against-wv-governor/

WV Governor’s proposed Travel Ban is unconstitutional

Yesterday our Governor, Jim Justice, in one of his live-stream briefings, threatened to order a travel ban of sorts, where any West Virginia resident who leaves the state will be forcibly tested for COVID-19 and quarantined. Before I even get to the potential Fourth Amendment violations which he’s proposing, the restrictions on interstate travel – that is traveling between states – is about as clear-cut of a violation as you can get.

These are his words:

Mandatory testing and quarantining when residents return to the state from out of state travel “is on the table,” Justice said.

Gov. Justice says mandatory testing and quarantining are ‘on the table’ for out of state travel after increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

The Governor in Kentucky tried this and was shot-down in federal court. Kentucky attorney, Chris Weist, sued the Kentucky Governor in federal court in response to his “travel ban,” and the Court found it to be clearly unconstitutional. The Kentucky ban “limited the reasons that Kentucky residents could leave the state and required that any person who left the state without a valid reason be self-quarantined for 14-days after their return.”

As outlined in Beshear’s two executive orders, order 2020-206 and 2020-258, individuals were only permitted to leave the state for employment, to receive or provide health care, to obtain groceries or other needed supplies, and when they were required to do so by a court order. The orders also allowed a resident to travel outside the state to assist in caring for the elderly, a minor, dependants, or vulnerable or disabled persons.

Kentucky’s Covid-19 Travel Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky struck it down:

After careful review, the Court concludes that the Travel Ban does not pass constitutional muster. The restrictions infringe on the basic right of citizens to engage in interstate travel, and they carry with them criminal penalties.

The “‘constitutional right to travel from one State to another’ is firmly embedded in our jurisprudence.” Saenz v. Rose, 526 U.S. 489, 498 (1999) (quoting United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 757 (1966)). Indeed, the right is “virtually unconditional.”Id. (quoting Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 643 (1969)). See also United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 757 (1966) (“Theconstitutional right to travel from one State to another … occupies a position fundamental to the concept of our Federal Union. It is a right that has been firmly established andrepeatedly recognized.”).

Roberts v. Neace, et al., Civil Action No. 2:20-cv-054, E.D. KY., May 4, 2020.

The federal court in Kentucky went on to say that it is possible that it might be constitutional if it were less restrictive. For instance, if it was a “request,” or “guidance,” rather than something that was going to be forcibly enforced. Or at least attempted to be enforced.

The key is that restriction on travel must be narrowly tailored so as to choose the least drastic means of achieving the objective. The federal court in Kentucky gave the following examples of individuals who would be unconstitutionally affected by the Kentucky ban:

  1. A person who lives or works in Covington would violate the order by taking a walk on the Suspension Bridge to the Ohio side and turning around and walking back, since the state border is several yards from the Ohio riverbank.
  2. A person who lives in Covington could visit a friend in Florence, Kentucky (roughly eight miles away) without violating the executive orders. But if she visited another friend in Milford, Ohio, about the same distance from Covington, she would violate the Executive Orders and have to be quarantined on return to Kentucky. Both these trips could be on an expressway and would involve the same negligible risk of contracting the virus.
  3. Family members, some of whom live in Northern Kentucky and some in Cincinnati less than a mile away, would be prohibited from visiting each other, even if social distancing and other regulations were observed.
  4. Check points would have to be set up at the entrances to the many bridges connecting Kentucky to other states. The I- 75 bridge connecting Kentucky to Ohio is one of the busiest bridges in the nation. Massive traffic jams would result. Quarantine facilities would have to be set up by the State to accommodate the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who would have to be quarantined.
  5. People from states north of Kentucky would have to be quarantined if they stopped when passing through Kentucky on the way to Florida or other southern destinations.
  6. Who is going to provide the facilities to do all the quarantining?

Most, if not all, of the same examples would occur here in West Virginia, if the Governor had his way. There can be little doubt that a federal challenge would be successful. The question is, does he care?

ALSO, DON’T FORGET TO SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL. NO SPAM, JUST POST NOTIFICATIONS.

UPDATE: the Livecast:

Also, here’s the link to the 1969 law review article I discussed:

Constitutional Protection for Freedom of Movement: A Time for Decision by Sheldon Elliot Steinbach, Kentucky Law Journal, 1969

And here’s the quote and cite for the 1849 case I mentioned:

For all the great purposes for which the Federal Government was formed, we are one people, with one common country. We are all citizens of the United States; and, as members ofthe community, must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own States.

Smith v. Turner, 48 U.S. 7 283, 292 (1849).

UPDATE 8/18: the podcast audio from the live cast:

https://thejohnbryanpodcast.podbean.com/e/freedom-is-scary-episode-2-lawsuit-against-wv-governor/

FRIDAY FIGHT – LIVE UPDATE

LIVE AT NOON TODAY. Watch here, on Youtube Live, or an Facebook Live.

I haven’t yet begun to fight, is the theme of the week. Many fights are ongoing, and many are waiting on deck. In this video, I give an end-of-the-week update to many of the civil rights cases we’re currently fighting, as well as some of the current real civil rights issues, in my opinion, of course. Some of the thecivilrightslawyer.com blog posts from this week, in case you missed them:

Delegating our Freedom to a Czar: https://thecivilrightslawyer.com/2020…

COVID Tyranny and the Truth: https://thecivilrightslawyer.com/2020…

Radio Interview Responding to the Attorney General: https://thecivilrightslawyer.com/2020… The Imminent Eviction Wave: https://thecivilrightslawyer.com/2020…

Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnBryanLaw

Note: Maryland’s highest court affirms that police can’t use the smell of marijuana to search and arrest a person

ETA: during the live cast I mentioned my hemp-law-guru who told me about the MD marijuana case. I should have mentioned, that’s Jennifer Mason, Esq. She’s the go-to person for up-to-date hemp law around the country.

West Virginia Supreme Court Denies our COVID Executive Order Lawsuit

So, we just received this order from the West Virginia Supreme Court in my email inbox.They denied our Petition for Writ of Mandamus. No explanation was given. That’s unfortunate. I spent 40 pages explaining why the Governor’s orders violated the State Constitution. So far nobody has explained why I’m wrong.

This is the end of the line for the petition for a writ of mandamus. It will be up to my clients, but we could seek injunctive relief from a state circuit court. Of course that will end up back at the Supreme Court either way it goes.

I’ll keep my glass half full and assume that they only denied it because they want us to take it to a trial court first, so they can rule on an appeal of a circuit court judge, rather than in the context of an original jurisdiction writ of mandamus. I’m looking at federal options as well on behalf of some private businesses who were victimized by this tyranny.