The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable seizures and searches. But it is not always clear what is reasonable or unreasonable when it comes to searches and seizures. New Jersey residents may have heard that the Supreme Court has an upcoming case about a possible unreasonable seizure. This case will help lower courts define when a person’s Fourth Amendment rights have been violated.
The facts of the case are as follows: On July 15, 2014, in the early morning, New Mexico state police officers arrived at an Albuquerque apartment complex. Two officers approached a running vehicle that was backed into a parking space. The driver thought that the officers were carjackers attempting to take the car, so she drove away.
The officers believed they were in danger and fired their weapons. The driver was hit two times but drove to a parking lot nearby. There, the driver found an undamaged car that was running and drove the second car 75 miles to Grants, New Mexico. Once in Grants, the driver checked into the hospital and was arrested there the following day.
In 2016, the driver filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers on the grounds that the shooting was an unreasonable seizure according to the Fourth Amendment. The test for deciding whether a Fourth Amendment seizure has occurred is whether or not the person feels free to leave. In this case, the argument is that by shooting at the driver, the officers made it clear that the driver was not free to leave. There is a catch here, however; the driver fled the scene. In an earlier case, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of seizure to cover situations when a person was not free to leave but left anyway. In other words, a person is not seized until physically caught.
People who have been accused of a crime deserve fair treatment under the law. The Fourth Amendment exists to protect individuals from unfair or unreasonable treatment by law enforcement. An attorney with a background in criminal defense cases may explain a defendant’s rights and help ensure that the defendant receives fair treatment under the law.