police officers

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Supreme Court amicus brief in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach argues if probable cause exists to make an arrest the arrestee should be barred from bringing a First Amendment retaliatory arrest lawsuit.

Fane Lozman lived in a floating house in the...

The Fifth Amendment says no person shall be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In Hays, Kansas v. Vogt the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Fifth Amendment is violated when a public employee’s compelled, self-incriminating statements are used against him or her at a probable cause hearing rather than at a trial.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief supporting the City of Hays arguing that the City should not be liable for the use of such statements because it has no control over how a prosecutor uses them. 

In a unanimous opinion in County of Los Angeles v. Mendez the Supreme Court rejected the “provocation rule,” where police officers using reasonable force may be liable for violating the Fourth Amendment because they committed a separate Fourth Amendment violation that contributed to their need to use force. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to reject the Ninth Circuit’s provocation rule.

Police officer entered the shack Mendez was living in without a warrant and unannounced. Mendez thought the officers were the property owner and picked up the BB gun he used to shoot rats so he could stand up. When the officers saw the gun, they shot him resulting in his leg being amputated below the knee.  

In District of Columbia v. Wesby the Supreme Court will decide whether, when the owner of a vacant house informs police he has not authorized entry, an officer assessing probable cause to arrest those inside for trespassing may discredit the suspects' claims of an innocent mental state.

Facts similar to those in this case may not arise very often. But police officers must assess claims of innocence in numerous other instances (theft, assault, even homicide). 

In its amicus brief in County of Los Angeles v. Mendez the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) asks the Supreme Court to reject the “provocation” rule, where any time a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment and violence ensues, the officer will be personally liable for money damages for the resulting physical injuries.

Everyone agrees police officers used reasonable force when they shot Angel Mendez. As officers entered, unannounced, the shack where Mendez was staying they saw a silhouette of Mendez pointing what looked like a rifle at them. The Ninth Circuit awarded him and his wife damages because the officers didn’t have a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment to search the shack thereby “provoking” Mendez.