February 2, 2012

United States Supreme Court - Ryburn v. Huff - 4th Amendment - Unreasonable Searches - Police/Cop Qualified Immunity

Ryburn v. Huff    4th Amendment - Unreasonable Searches  - Police/Cop Qualified Immunity        
Facts: A principle at a high school gets word of some threat. According to students, the threat came from Vincent Huff, a student often bullied at school (of course the police claim this fit the ‘profile’ of a school shooter). The Burbank, CA police arrive to investigate, but Vincent Huff was absent. The police go to Vincent’s home. Vincent’s mother refused to allow the cops entry into their home. The police beg, and again she refuses. The opinion claims the police asked Ms. Huff if there are any guns in the home. In response, the police claimed that Ms. Huff turned and ran into the house. The police, of course, followed Ms. Huff into her home uninvited. Upon entering the home, Vincent Huff’s dad confronted the police and questioned their authority to be in his home. The police claimed they left 10 minutes later. At no time during this investigation did the police seek or possess a warrant authorizing entry or a search the Huff home. The lower courts denied immunity to the police. 
Issue: Whether qualified immunity protects the police? 
Held: Yes.
Reasoning:   No Justice put his or her name to the decision; the Court issued it Per Curium. Nevertheless, the Court goes through a litany of reasons why Ms. Huff raised officer suspicions, but none discloses any criminal conduct (further, no mention that parent involvement also fit the profile of school shooters). For example: Ms. Huff refuses to speak to the police when they call; Ms. Huff declined to discuss anything with the police when they arrived; Ms. Huff refused the police entry into her home. Thus, instead of exhibiting criminal behaviour, Ms. Huff, uniquely and unambiguously exercised her constitutional rights. Unfortunately the Court disagreed, found qualified immunity, and recited the testimony of one of the cops, “Ryburn’s experience as a juvenile bureau sergeant, it was ‘extremely unusual’ for a parent to decline an officer’s request to interview a juvenile inside.” Somehow all this equates to reasonable officer conduct, and thus, immune from any civil suit. The Court essentially bought the line of exigent circumstance - despite it being an exigency of the police officers' own imagination and creation, that is officer safety. 
Link to Ryburn v. Huff  here

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