Federal Court Rules Cops Can Seize Guns Without Charges Or Warrant
May 19, 2014 11:30am PST
A panel of federal court judges have ruled that it is not a violation of your constitutional rights for police to break down the door to your home, search the entire place, and take your guns if they believe it to be in your best interest.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a case that dated back to May 22, 2011, where a woman’s psychiatrist phoned police to let them know that she thought she might be suicidal after receiving some bad news and expressing grief during a visit. Shortly after, police were dispatched to find 42-year-old Krysta Sutterfield in Milwaukee, Wisconsin so they could forcibly detain her and give her a mandatory medical evaluation.
Police went to her home with a description of her vehicle but were unable to locate it in her garage. Hours went by without them finding her, however Dr. Bentle called and told the police that she “had called her some minutes earlier stating that she was not in need of assistance and that the doctor should ‘call off’ the police search for her,” court documents stated.
The police didn’t call of the search, in spite of the doctor’s recommendation, and at 8:30 p.m. they found Sutterfield at her home. She answered the door for the officers but wouldn’t allow them in her house because she didn’t need assistance and had already called off the search, but that wasn’t good enough.
After about a 30-minute standoff, police called for backup while Sutterfield called 911 to try to get them to back off. While she was on the phone the police kicked her door in and accosted her, and she could be heard on the 911 recording telling the officers to “let go of her and that they leave her home.”
Sutterfield was shackled and detained while the police, without a warrant, conducted a “proactive sweep” of her home. They found her pistol in an opaque case and a BB gun in the residence and seized both along with her CCW permit. She was then taken into custody and brought to the county’s Mental Health Complex where she underwent a mandatory mental evaluation.
Sutterfield almost immediately filed suit against the Milwaukee Police Department for violating her Second and Fourth Amendment rights, contending that the search of her home without a warrant was illegal and so was the seizure of her firearms.
After her first case being dismissed, Sutterfield had her appeal heard by the 7th Circuit, who ultimately ruled against her.
Judge Illana Rovner wrote that “Although the court had found it ‘likely’ that Sutterfield’s Fourth Amendment rights had been violated, the court discerned no basis to hold Milwaukee liable for the violation.” She also said that “the intrusions upon Sutterfield’s privacy were profound,” and noted, “at the core of the privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment is the right to be let alone in one’s home.”
The three judge panel found that “Even if the officers did exceed constitutional boundaries, they are protected by qualified immunity.”
The court found that “There is no suggestion that (police) acted for any reason other than to protect Sutterfield from harm,” which means that the violation of her Fourth Amendment rights was allowable since they were acting on her behalf.
So basically if the police have reason to believe that you’re a danger to yourself they can kick your door in, take your guns, and take you into custody even if you have done nothing wrong. Such a precedent is dangerous and will undoubtedly lead to abuses, especially with doctors questioning people about having firearms in their homes.
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