Criminal Defense

Supreme Court case could have lasting impact on the fourth amendment

Oct 28, 2020

An upcoming Supreme Court case could have a lasting impact on the rights of people in Kentucky. The case, Torres v. Madrid, deals with the issue of when a person is considered to be seized under the Fourth Amendment when he or she is fleeing from the police.

Background of the case

Police officers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, went to an apartment complex during the early morning on July 15, 2014. The defendant was sitting in her running vehicle in the parking lot. When the police approached her vehicle to try to talk to her, she drove away. The officers shot into her vehicle, striking her. The officers claimed that they were in fear for their lives. She drove to a different parking lot, where she got into a running vehicle and drove 75 miles away to Grants Pass, New Mexico. She checked herself into the hospital in Grants Pass and was arrested. She filed a lawsuit against the two officers, alleging that her shooting was an unconstitutional seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The court granted a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case, which was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

The issue and the potential effect of the decision

The Supreme Court will decide at what point a fleeing person is considered to be seized for Fourth Amendment purposes. The defendant argues that she was seized as soon as she was shot even though she drove away. The officers argue that she was not seized when she was shot because she fled. If the court rules for the officers, the right against unreasonable seizures may be weakened because something more substantial than holding a person who is not free to leave might be required before the Fourth Amendment protections would apply.

The Fourth Amendment provides important protections to people against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, determining what is reasonable and the point at which someone is seized can be difficult. When officers violate the constitutional rights of defendants during their investigations, experienced criminal defense attorneys might be able to have the illegally-gathered evidence suppressed and potentially secure dismissals of the charges.