Police officers around the nation continue to misunderstand the Fourth Amendment and the concept of reasonable suspicion. This footage was submitted by Nick Failla, showing his arrest in Cocoa, Florida several years back. He just recently obtained the bodycam footage.
Many cops believe that they get to forcibly ID anyone they encounter as a part of their job. They are taught that its policy to do this for officer safety reasons. We see it over and over again. In this particular video, the female officer, who is a supervisor, explains repeatedly to Nick that, because she’s a police officer conducting an investigation, Florida law allows her to obtain the ID of anyone she encounters – whether or not a crime is even alleged. Nick disagrees with her and asks repeatedly for an explanation of what crime he was alleged to have committed. Let me see if I can clear this up.
This is a common issue and is the subject of one of my most popular Youtube videos – a case currently being litigated in federal court, involving the arrest of my client in a West Virginia Walmart. When police officers encounter pedestrians, they could trigger an investigatory detention, which requires reasonable suspicion, or they could just be engaged in a consensual encounter, which requires nothing. It’s just a conversation.
Consensual encounters, i.e., a conversation, does not trigger the Fourth Amendment, and can be easily identified if the subject asks whether or not he’s free to leave. If the question isn’t asked, courts will look to the circumstances. Would a reasonable, regular person believe that he was NOT free to leave? Were emergency lights activated? Multiple police officers? Guns drawn? Put in handcuffs? Accused of criminal conduct? Told to show your hands? Told to get on the ground? Or was it just a conversation.
The question is whether a reasonable person would feel free to terminate the encounter. If the person was involuntarily detained by the officer, that constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, no matter how brief the detention or how limited its purpose.
If a detention occurs, the courts require the detaining officer to be able to articulate why a particular behavior is suspicious or logically demonstrate that the person’s behavior is indicative of some sinister criminal activity. It must be based on suspicion of illegal conduct. In other words, it cannot be based on suspicion of legal conduct, such as walking down a public sidewalk, or hanging out on top of your van with two women in a parking lot in front of a lake.
Here, there was clearly a detention. Therefore reasonable suspicion is required. Even in Florida, a police officer must have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the person stopped of criminal activity.” United States v. Campbell, 26 F.4th 860, 880 (11th Cir. 2022) (en banc).
Andru Kulas was arrested by the Fort Collins Police Department in the early morning hours of August 29, 2021. He was pretty drunk and was expressing some criticism of the officers as they wrote him a citation for trespassing at a rooftop bar. When he refused the actual piece of paper, one of the officers attempted to shove it into his shirt pocket, which escalated the situation into the man being pepper sprayed at close range, among other things. He just filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.
This is a West Virginia case – bodycam of a traffic stop for lack of an inspection sticker and warrantless arrest. This involves the Martinsburg Police Department and Patrolman Daniel Smith. The guy in the video, D.J. Beard, wants to file a lawsuit. You tell me, what do you think? Does he have a case, in your opinion? Mr. Beard was almost immediately arrested for allegedly refusing to get out of his car. Is that what the footage shows?
This is the same police department that pulled over, and arrested, Corey Lambert, as featured in another video (different officer though).
Here are the criminal case filings, including the charging documents, police report narrative, as well as the dismissal orders:
About 8 months ago I did a video on the Jacksonville, Florida traffic stop of Braxton Smith by Officer Peppers of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. After the bodycam footage hit the internet and the media, the agency received 14 complaints about the officer’s conduct, including a complaint by Mr. Smith. JSO Internal Affairs performed an investigation and the report has been released.
In the Fall of 2020, David Craft, who then lived in Statesville, North Carolina, killed a monster buck in McDowell County, West Virginia, and also killed another trophy buck back in North Carolina, during the same season. David is a serious deer hunter. He does his homework; he puts in the time. He gets result. But others get jealous. Law enforcement ended up essentially stealing his antlers, posing with them for the media, dragging him through over a year of frivolous criminal prosecution, and then abruptly dropping the charging just prior to the jury trial, when it turned out they had no evidence.
You can read the full background in my first post about this case, here.
This week we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the two primary police officers involved. Here’s the full complaint:
This footage shows a woman in Michigan attempting to visit her mother in a nursing home. The facility decides to trespass her from the property and call law enforcement. Once the police arrive, she voluntary leaves – or rather attempts to leave. Then this happens…. Once again, the issue arises: can the police detain and forcibly ID a citizen who is in the process of voluntarily leaving a private business following a trespassing complaint?
Here’s a new West Virginia video I received out of Morgan County, West Virginia, showing an interaction between some young guys and multiple sheriff’s deputies outside a bar. What it shows is troubling, but not surprising: police officers who can’t control their temper when interacting with someone who is running their mouth – or as the courts call it, “mere words.” Here in the Fourth Circuit, police cannot use violent physical force in response to someone’s “mere words,” – even if they perceive them as obstruction or threats. See United States v. Cobb, 905 F.2d 784, 789 (4th Cir. 1990).
This clip started making the rounds on Tik Tok and now it just popped up on the news here in West Virginia that the agency has ordered an independent investigation into the footage by an outside agency:
Morgan County Sheriff KC Bohrer says, “I have requested an investigation into the matter by an independent agency to be totally transparent and through.”
He says the issue will be ” thoroughly and impartially investigated” and asked for patience during the investigation. “As in any investigation it takes time to gather all the facts.”
This happened on December 3, 2022. The guy they’re talking to had been assaulted in a bar Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. His friend called police. After they arrived, it became clear that they didn’t intend to help. So one of the men began to film.
Apparently, after the video turns off, both men were placed in the rear of a police car for a while. Shortly afterwards they were released with no charges. The one guy was finally able to go to the hospital and receive medical treatment.
There does appear to me to be some constitutional violations in there. I really need to see the police report and the 911 communications to gather all the facts before giving a more informed opinion. In fact, I already submitted a FOIA request. Not surprisingly, given that an investigation was ordered, they’ve already denied my request:
Hopefully this isn’t one of those situations where an investigation is ordered and then… nothing is ever released. There seems to be an awful lot of those in West Virginia.
October 9, 2020, Sterling Police Officer Paul McDaniel pulled Christian Weitzel from his apartment and threw him to the ground. With the assistance of Sterling Police Officer Matt Williams and Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy Alton McGuffin, the three officers hogtied Mr. Weitzel with his wrists handcuffed behind his back, his ankles strapped together, and his ankles and wrists tied together behind his back. They drug him to a police cruiser, threw him into the rear seat, and left him in that position until he was finally released at the jail.
There was a verbal argument between Mr. Weitzel and his wife, Brittany Weitzel. Mr. Weitzel was not arrested or charged with any criminal offenses related to a domestic dispute. The officers were called to the scene following a call from a neighbor of a possible domestic dispute due to hearing loud voices. After the officers arrived at the apartment, they could not hear anyone yelling inside the apartment. They did not observer any altercation taking place, or any crimes being committed.
Officer McDaniel asked Brittany what was going on and she stated, “just an argument.” She did not appear to have any injuries. She did not request assistance from the officers. She had not called them to the scene. Mr. Weitzel then walked up to the doorway from inside the apartment. He did not step outside the threshold of the apartment door. He asked Officer McDaniel, “what’s up man,” in a calm nonthreatening, and nonaggressive manner.
Officer McDaniel asked Mr. Weitzel to “come here and talk to me man.” Mr. Weitzel, in a calm, nonthreatening and nonaggressive manner, stated, “I’m cool,” indicating that he wanted to stay inside the doorway of his apartment. He made no sudden moves. He did not threaten the officers in any way. Mr. Weitzel did not appear to be armed. Nor did the officers have any information or indication that Mr. Weitzel was armed. Mr. Weitzel was ultimately hogtied for approximately 16 minutes. Mr. Weitzel was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstructing. All the charges were subsequently dismissed by Logan County Court Judge Ray Ann Brammer.
A lawsuit was filed just a few days ago in state court in Colorado over these allegations. I’ll post it up to the blog, link in the description. As for the facts, based on the body cam footage and the facts presented in media reports and the civil lawsuit, constitutional rights were violated. Why?Although the officers were called to the scene of a reported domestic dispute, they ended up acting on a very small amount of information that, even if true, does not justify an arrest of the homeowner, much less a use of force.
A neighbor called 911, reporting a suspected verbal argument. There was apparently no allegation of a crime being committed, or that anyone’s physical safety was in jeopardy. When officers arrived at the scene, they saw no crime being committed. They located and observed both spouses at the residence. Neither appeared to be in distress, or requested their assistance. Without Mrs. Weitzel requesting their assistance, under these circumstances, the officers had no justification for pulling Mr. Weitzel out of his house. That’s a Fourth Amendment violation right there. But even assuming they acted properly up to that point, then we have the arrestee being hogtied on the ground.
Colorado is the 10th federal circuit. A quick search of the case law shows that police officers hogtying anyone is a terrible idea under almost any fact pattern. It could theoretically be reasonable under some circumstances, but I really don’t know what that would be. It certainly would not be reasonable under this fact pattern, where the arrestee had not committed any crime at all, much less a severe one. Watching the body cam footage shows that the arrestee is not attempting to harm the officers. He poses no threat to them.
Rather, it appears that the officers hogtied the man in retaliation for not immediately respecting their authority by stepping out of his house when they asked him to do so – despite having no legal justification for the demand. This appears to be one of those common situations where police are going to teach a lesson about respecting the police. It’s clearly not about the safety of anyone on the scene, including the arrestee.
In Cruz, Wyoming police officers responded to a complaint of a naked man running on the exterior landing of an apartment building. When the officers arrived, Mr. Cruz, the man on the landing, was jumping up and down and kicking his legs in the air. When he descended from the landing, the officers wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. They hogtied him. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Cruz’s face blanched. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Expert reports indicated that Mr. Cruz’s death resulted from positional asphyxiation. Citing Cruz, the 2008 Weigel opinion denied those officers qualified immunity for similar conduct, issuing a clear warning to law enforcement to think twice about hogtying arrestees. As a result of this, the Wyoming State Police, as I understand it, prohibited the practice. Back in the 90’s, the DOJ also warned against the cruel practice.
There are a lot of other hogtying cases out there. But I gave you the 10th Circuit law, as that is applicable for this particular jurisdiction.