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  • Cory Morris

Police Entitled to Qualified Immunity - It was not Clearly Established law that Police can’t knock a


Facts: Pennsylvania State Police ("Police") get a report that Michael Zita ("Zita") had stolen a car, had two loaded handguns and fled the home of two individuals. Police went to investigate the house and parked by several cars all sitting side by side. The cops exited their car and saw a small structure on the property with its door open and a light on and saw nothing. Continuing on the property, the officers knocked at the door of a ground-level deck. What they got was a belligerint individual who refused to answer questions and then reached for his waist which prompted the officers to restrain the man.

A woman comes out of the house and identifies herself, the officers ask her questions and consent to search the home to which the woman, Karen Carman consented. The Carmans sue under 42 USC 1983 arguing that the Police unlawfully entered their prpoerty inviolation of the Fourth Amendment by going into their backyard and onto their deck without a warrant.

Procedural History: At trial, the police argued the entry was lawful under the "knock and talk" exception to the warrant requirement. After instruction and Jury trial, a verdict was returned for Carroll. The Third Circuit reversed in part, holding that "Officer Carroll violated the Fourth Amendment as a matter of law because the 'knock and talk' exception 'requires that police officers begin their encounter at the front door, where they have an implied invitiation to go.' 749 F.3d, at 199. The Third Circuit also held that Carroll was not entitled to qualified immunity because his actions violated clearly established law. The SCOTUS reversed the Third Circuit determination that Carroll was not entitled to qualified immunity.

SCOTUS [Here the Third Circuit cited only a single case to support its decision that Carroll was not entitled to qualified immunity—Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 318 F. 3d 497 (CA3 2003). Assuming for the sake of argument that a controlling circuit precedent could constitute clearly established federal law in these circumstances, see Reichle v. Howards, 566 U. S. ___, ___ (2012) (slip op., at 7), Marasco does not clearly establish that Carroll violated the Carmans’ Fourth Amendment rights...Marasco simply did not answer the question whether a “knock and talk” must begin at the front door whenvisitors may also go to the back door.]

Conclusion SCOTUS: [We do not decide today whether those cases were correctly decided or whether a police officer may conduct a “knock and talk” at any entrance that is open to visitors rather than only the front door. “But whether or not the constitutional rule applied by the court below was correct, it was not ‘beyond debate.’” Stanton v. Sims, 571 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (per curiam) (slip op., at 8) (quoting al-Kidd, 563 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 9)). The Third Circuit therefore erred when it held that Carroll was not entitled to qualified immunity.]

The case was remanded; JEREMY CARROLL v. ANDREW CARMAN, 574 U. S. ____ (Nov. 10, 2014).

#qualifiedimmunity #scotus #knockandtalk #fourthamendment #4thamendment

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