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William Wallshein P.A Motto

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Important Fourth Amendment Seizure Case Involving Excessive Force & Police Shootings


In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Torres v. Madrid, an important Fourth Amendment search and seizure case for which there is currently a split amongst the U.S. Court of Appeals, including the 11th Circuit (which covers Florida) and one that is very important to what is considered a “seizure” in criminal cases.

The case involves a defendant who was allegedly involved in drug offenses and fleeing and eluding law enforcement officers, and who was shot and injured by the police. According to reports, the defendant was parked in the lot of her apartment building while officers were there to arrest someone else, but they thought the defendant looked suspicious. While being approached by what turned out to be officers, the defendant reported that she thought she was being carjacked because the officers never identified themselves, and when her car merely inched forward, she was shot by what turned out to be police officers. Although she was shot several times, she was able to escape and eventually made it to the hospital, whereby she found out that she was shot by police officers. As a result, the defendant claimed that the officers used excessive force under???to detain her and, in doing so, engaged in an illegal “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment.

The 10th Circuit’s Decision

If law enforcement officers discover evidence via an illegal seizure, they may not be able to use the evidence they gather against you in court. While the 8th, 9th, and 11th Circuits have long held that an unsuccessful attempt to detain a suspect by use of physical force is a seizure, in this case, the 10th Circuit held that no seizure occurred because shooting the defendant did not actually stop her from getting away and the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The court had previously found that a suspect’s continued flight after being shot by police negates a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim. As a result, the court reasoned, without a seizure, there could be no Fourth Amendment violation.

The Importance of This Case & Others for Defendants: Working with The Right Counsel

However, it is crucial that, when it hears arguments in the case later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court uphold existing precedent that the application of physical force in this manner did amount to the defendant being seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, regardless of what came next, so that the fundamental protections of the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable seizures are upheld.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime and/or the subject of an illegal search or seizure, it is imperative that you retain the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney so that your fundamental rights are defended and any wrongfully seized evidence is not used against you. Contact West Palm Beach criminal attorney William Wallshein today for a free consultation to find out more about our defense services for clients throughout Florida.


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