Individuals in California and throughout the country are granted protections from unreasonable searches and seizures by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. However, a civil case filed in New Mexico and being considered by the Supreme Court highlights the differences of opinion that courts have when it comes to determining what constitutes being seized.
You’ve been seized if you aren’t free to leave
According to an opinion in United States v. Mendenhall, a person has been seized if there is reason to believe that he or she isn’t free to leave police custody. In the New Mexico case, officers pulled their weapons on a person seated inside of a running Toyota FJ Cruiser in an apartment parking lot. Legal scholars generally agree that this is a clear indication that the woman inside of the car had lost the ability to go anywhere.
The suspect attempted to evade police capture
The case gets more complicated because the suspect would flee the scene, allegedly believing she was the victim of a carjacking, and drive 75 miles after switching cars. Officers fired at her vehicle when she pulled off. Two years later, the woman filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the shooting was an unreasonable Fourth Amendment “seizure.”
The officers argued that the woman couldn’t have been seized because her freedom of movement had not been impaired. However, the plaintiff in the case argues that she was seized at the time that she had been shot. If that action is not found to be reasonable, it could be argued that the woman’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
If you are charged with evading police or any other crime, a criminal defense attorney may represent your interests throughout the legal process. Legal counsel could also try to get evidence suppressed or argue that your rights were violated before or after being taken into custody. This may be enough to obtain an acquittal or negotiate a favorable plea deal that avoids jail or prison time.