Last updated on November 2, 2021

Michigan Criminal Cases Involving Fourth Amendment Violations

The United States Supreme Court recently issued an opinion stemming from officers’ intentional use of force to apprehend an individual. The decision will likely impact the Michigan criminal defendant’s ability to hold police accountable for misconduct. More importantly for those facing criminal charges, the opinion will also likely have implications for how courts interpret search and seizure laws.

The case stemmed from an incident where investigating officers were at an apartment complex. They approached the woman’s vehicle, and the woman fled, believing the officers were attempting to carjack her vehicle. As she was fleeing, the officers fired their weapons 13 times, striking the woman in the arm twice. The woman swapped vehicles and drove 75 miles to a hospital, where she was arrested the following day.

The woman pled no contest to three offenses and filed two civil rights lawsuits against each officer. She claimed the officers’ actions amounted to a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. In support, she argued that the officers’ engaged in an unreasonable seizure of her person through their unreasonable use of excessive force. The lower court dismissed her case, finding that the law entitles officers to qualified immunity. Further, the District Court found that the Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure claim was not applicable because the defendant was not stopped.

The Supreme Court focused their inquiry on when a seizure occurs. The defendant argued that Fourth Amendment violation questions require an analysis of the totality of the circumstances and whether a reasonable person would not feel free to leave and if their movement is inhibited. They contend that in this case, the women’s movement was restrained, evidenced by her ability to drive an hour to a hospital.

According to the Supreme Court’s analysis, a seizure takes place when one submits to authority or in cases when an office applies physical force with the intent to restrain. The inquiry does not take into consideration whether the individual was actually detained. The Court supported their decision with prior case law and the long-standing notion that the Fourth Amendment protects against an individual’s personal security, including physically invasive behaviors. The Court declined to address issues surrounding reasonableness, damages, or qualified immunity. However, they concluded that physical force to a person’s body, with the intent to restrain, amounts to a seizure-even if the person is not subdued.

Have You Been Arrested for a Michigan Criminal Offense?

If you face Michigan criminal charges or need assistance with a criminal appeal, contact Michigan Defense Law. Our law firm attorneys maintain a reputation for providing excellent and effective representation to those charged with all types of criminal offenses. We represent clients in cases stemming from Michigan OWI offenses, criminal sexual conduct, airport crimes, felonies, gun charges, and more. Our attorneys provide clients with assistance through every stage of these complex proceedings, from preliminary hearings to appeals. We appreciate that each client, case, and offense is unique and deserves individualized strategic approaches. In light of the recent Supreme Court rulings, it is vital that Michigan criminal defendants contact an experienced attorney to discuss the best defense in their specific case. Contact Michigan Defense Law at 248-451-2200 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our office.

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