Monday, May 08, 2006

D'oh! Wrong house!

In Harman v. Pollock, a section 1983 case from Utah, the Tenth Circuit considered whether plaintiffs had established a sufficient constitutional claim to get past summary judgment. The police had a warrant for a different address, but entered plaintiff's garage apartment and detained them for an hour and a half. The Tenth Circuit agreed that the police officers enjoyed qualified immunity for the initial entry, but that there were facts in dispute regarding the length of the resulting detention after the police discovered their mistake. There is some good Fourth Amendment language in this case:
We recognize that "[i]t is only after the police begin to execute the warrant and set foot upon the described premises that they will discover the factual mistake and must reasonably limit their search accordingly." Garrison, 480 U.S. at 89 n.14. Although the officers were acting under the auspices of what they believed to be a valid warrant, we have determined that material facts remain in dispute as to the reasonableness of the detention of the plaintiffs and search of the garage apartment. The Supreme Court consistently reminds us that "[a] generalized interest in expedient law enforcement cannot, without more, justify a warrantless search." Georgia v. Randolph, No. 04-1067, 2006 WL 707380, at *8, n.5 (March 22, 2006); see Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 481 (1971) ("The warrant requirement . . . is not an inconvenience to be somehow 'weighed' against the claims of police efficiency").
Does anyone know what kind of damages plaintiffs get in this kind of case? I have also wondered what the hallmarks of a good 1983 claim are (i.e. when should we be referring Fourth Amendment wins to someone?).

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