Tuesday, August 04, 2009

PC to Arrest Not Supported by "Inherently Innocuous Behavior"

Sherhouse v. Ratchner, 2009 WL 2343711 (7/31/09) (Published) - In a civil rights case, the 10th holds one of the plaintiffs was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Albuquerque officers did not have probable cause to arrest a Hispanic teenage girl who was seen near the neighborhood of a robbery where the culprit was supposed to be a black female. She was seen giving a sweater to a black teenage girl who was supposedly identified by witnesses as the robber [she wasn't]. Association with a suspected criminal is not enough. While the officers suspected she gave the sweater to her companion to conceal identity, there were many innocent explanations. Here's a quote that we can use: "Where an officer observes inherently innocuous behavior that has plausible innocent explanations, it takes more than speculation or mere possibility to give rise to probable cause to arrest."

But no dice for the companion. There was probable cause to arrest her based on her location and the supposed identifications [disputed by some of the alleged identifiers and one officer wrote in a report that no identifications were made]. It was not reversible error to give a jury instruction that indicated the arrest could be lawful where the officer was reasonably mistaken about the existence of probable cause. While the instruction was not completely accurate because a reasonable mistake about the law would not justify an arrest, there was no evidence in this case the officers were mistaken as to the law, only as to the facts. It was okay to refuse to instruct the jury that transportation to a police station without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment. The instruction would have been okay, even though it did not take into account that a voluntary transportation would not have implicated the 4th Amendment, since there was no dispute that the transportation was involuntary. But an instruction that arrest without probable cause was unlawful sufficiently covered the gist of the proffered instruction, given the officers' concession that the transportation was the equivalent of an arrest.