Monday, April 13, 2015

Did Alabama Sheriff Deputies Violate U.S. Supreme Court Precedent In Making Legal Schnauzer Arrest?

An Alabama police officer recently body slammed a grandfather from India named Sureshbhai Patel, and video of the assault helped shine an international spotlight on law-enforcement abuse in the Deep South. The spotlight became even brighter last week when a South Carolina officer fatally shot a fleeing Walter Scott in the back, over a non-operating brake light on Scott's vehicle--and then lied that he was being threatened at the time of the shooting.

How bad can some rogue officers be in the South, especially in the state I know best--Alabama? How deep is their disregard for the law? To help answer those questions, we can turn to my own arrest on October 23, 2013, which led to five months in jail. What was my crime? As with the Walter Scott case, there weren't even allegations of a crime; I was arrested for blogging--and I'm not making that up.

How absurd did it get? Courtroom evidence suggests that Alabama deputies arrested me without a warrant, making the arrest "unauthorized and illegal" under the law. If that was the case, the deputies likely ran afoul of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that generally prohibits warrantless entry into a private home to make an arrest.

Payton v. New York, 455 U.S 573 (1980) specifically forbids such entry in most cases involving felony arrest. My arrest was for civil contempt in a defamation lawsuit and did not involve a crime at all.

Shelby County deputy Chris Blevins entered my home on October 23, 2013, walking into our basement garage to knock me down three times and Mace me before telling me that I was under arrest. It's all caught on a videotape that later was played in open court.

At no point, in a video taken from his police cruiser, does Blevins show an arrest warrant. When the prosecution was told to turn over copies of any warrants at my resisting-arrest trial in January, prosecutor Tonya Willingham replied that she did not have any warrants.

All of that suggests there was no warrant for my arrest, and that raises the issue of Payton v. New York. Here is the key finding in that case:

The Fourth Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine felony arrest.

I can be heard on the video telling Blevins to get out of my house, so his entry was nonconsensual. What are some of the primary legal points in Payton and how might they apply to the Legal Schnauzer case? We will take a look at those questions in upcoming posts.

Those questions become particularly compelling in the aftermath of the assault on Suresehbhai Patel--not to mention the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Eric Garner chokehold death in New York City and the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina . . . and the list seems to grow by the day.

Meanwhile. we've already shown that Officer Blevins violated Alabama statutory law by entering our house to make an arrest without stating his purpose for being there. And he violated federal law by unlawfully using pepper spray, constituting excessive force.

Is our nation turning into a police state that is spinning out of control? A growing body of evidence suggests the answer is yes.

How disturbing is this? Well, we learned yesterday via The New York Daily News that Officer Michael Slager laughed to a coworker about "pumping adrenaline" after shooting Walter Scott to death.

We have some disturbed individuals wearing law-enforcement uniforms right now. I saw that firsthand when Chris Blevins committed an assault and battery against me--inside my own home.

How bad was it? The video below features an interview with my wife Carol just a few days after I had essentially been kidnapped, and the footage shows the havoc that Blevins wreaked in our garage--all apparently without the benefit of having a warrant. (Hat tip for the video to Matt Osborne, editor of Breitbart Unmasked.)

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

I notice that Payton applies to "routine felony arrests." That suggests to me that the officer in your case had no authority to enter your house at all, even if he had a warrant.

In a case like yours, which involves no crime (much less a felony), I don't see how an officer has the authority under Payton to enter your home.

Even it you were wanted for an actual crime, a misdemeanor, a close reading of Payton suggests the officer can't come into your home--even with a warrant--unless you are wanted for a felony.

legalschnauzer said...

You make a very interesting point, @9:33, one that had zipped right past my eyes. I'm hardly a Fourth Amendment expert, but you correctly point out that the language in Payton applies to "routine felony arrests."

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. My rights might have been violated even worse than I thought.

legalschnauzer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
legalschnauzer said...

Was just going to add that it pays to have readers with keen eyes. I'm constantly learning things from readers, and you certainly are an example of that.

Anonymous said...

This is 9:33 again. I think the officer tried so hard to block your vehicle because he knew, legally, he was toast if you got in your garage. I also think that's why he asked you to come outside. He might not be very bright, but I'm betting this officer knew he had no grounds to enter your home on a non-criminal case. In my view, you wisely refused to come out of the garage, given that he showed no warrant. That's what I would have done, assuming I had been able to keep my wits about me. I'm sure that isn't easy to do in situations like this.

legalschnauzer said...

More good points I had not thought of. Many thanks for your keen insights.

Anonymous said...

Looks to me like someone told Officer Blevins, "You bring the Legal Schnauzer guy in, no matter what you have to do, how many laws you have to break. Don't come back until you have him."

Anonymous said...

The phrase "without a warrant" makes your argument using Payton completely moot. You were convicted by a judge on resisting. Sounds like the judge believed there was a warrant for your arrest.

I have not heard the recording, yet, but I have to ask, could the laugh be a nervous laugh? I know many people who laugh at inappropriate times when they are put in stressful situations.

legalschnauzer said...

Not sure I understand your point, @5:00. You are mixing a resisting-arrest case with the law regarding Blevins' entry into our home. Those are two entirely different things.

You also are mixing a ground-breaking U.S. Supreme Court case, the law of the land, with the work of a low-level judge in Alabama, who has a demonstrated inability to apply the law in multiple cases. That's sort of laughable.

It's not a matter of what Judge Ron Jackson in Shelby County thought. It's a matter of record that the prosecutor said, "I don't have a warrant," so Jackson didn't have to think (and he's good at not thinking). The record shows there was no warrant, and that violates Payton.

Blevins' entry into our home violates both Alabama statutory law, and ultimately will be an issue on a federal, civil-rights level. That has nothing to do with what an inept district judge in Shelby County thinks about anything.

I don't know if you are grasping at straws or you really are as clueless as you sound, but you deserve "credit" for one of the most legally inept comments I've ever read--here or anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

If you get around to federal civil rights case, you will lose and I will have the last laugh. The record shows the DA didn't have the warrants, not that they didn't exist. You keep trying to infer one statement means another. The resisting stemmed from a warrant that was served in your house. That makes them related and the ground-breaking U.S. Supreme Court case you mentioned doesn't apply. You are the one who appears to be grasping at straws.

legalschnauzer said...

So you enjoy seeing victims of police abuse being cheated in court? I guess you will be pulling for the SC officer who shot Walter Scott in the back. That says a lot about your character and (lack of) humanity. You've confirmed what I already know--that our courts are corrupt--and you think it's funny. That reminds me of Officer Slager. In fact, you sound just about as intelligent as he is--and his immediate reaction to wrongdoing (murder) was to lie and attempt a coverup.

Were you raised in the woods by wild hogs? It sounds like it, and I apologize for offending wild hogs.

Actually, the entry into our house without a warrant makes the resisting arrest charge moot. You cannot be charged or convicted with resisting an unlawful arrest. That's Law School 101, and we covered it in detail here recently.

You, of course, don't care about the law, but I thought I would cite it anyway--just in case you had an unlikely awakening.

I understand why you are anonymous. If I wrote the transparently nonsensical stuff you write, I'd stay anonymous, too.