If anyone is expected to follow the directives of the Alabama Sheriff's Handbook, it should be deputy sheriffs. After all, the main purpose of the document apparently is to describe a deputy's duties on the job. Firsthand experience, however, has taught us that Alabama deputies tend to have no clue what the handbook says -- or they simply ignore the law and generally suffer no consequences for it.
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It has been just more than a year since my five-month incarceration for blogging ended in Shelby County, Alabama. We already have shown that the arrest was unlawful on at least three grounds, but the list of abnormalities in the case seems to keep growing.
That's because the actions of Deputy Chris Blevins in "effectuating" my arrest so clearly fall outside the boundaries of the law. Blevins' unlawful actions fall into at least four categories: (1) His failure to state his purpose for being at our home; (2) His failure to state his mission before entering our home; (3) His use of excessive force, as defined by law; (4) His use of pepper spray in a situation where the law does not support it.
Here is another description of Blevins actions' that night, from a post dated April 29, 2015:
Chris Blevins, of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, entered the garage underneath our house on October 23, 2013, and knocked me to a concrete floor three times and directed pepper spray into my face--all without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating his purpose for being on our property. This all resulted from my alleged civil contempt, having nothing to with a crime.
Do either of these descriptions fall in line with law outlined in the Alabama Sheriff's Handbook? Not even close. Consider this language from page 89 of the handbook. (Note: the handbook is available online in a PDF format, but recent browser issues prevent me from providing a link.)
An officer may make a warrantless arrest when the officer has actual knowledge that an arrest warrant has been issued for the defendant's commission of a felony or misdemeanor. The officer does not need to have the warrant in his or her possession to arrest the individual; the officer must, however, inform the person arrested of the offense charged and of the fact that a warrant has been issued for the person’s arrest. Ala. Code § 15-10-3(a)(6).
Did Blevins even try to follow Alabama law, as spelled out in his own handbook? The answer clearly is no. What made Blevins think he could enter our home that evening? If he took the handbook seriously, he would have known he could not. From page 90:
A law officer cannot enter a person's dwelling to make a routine felony arrest. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 590 (1959). Although Alabama law provides that an officer making a warrantless arrest may forcibly enter a dwelling if the officer is refused admittance, Ala. Code § 15- 10-4, the United States Supreme Court has held that such an act violates the defendant's constitutional rights, unless the officer can show a compelling necessity for immediate action. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 590 (1959).
Did Chris Blevins violate our constitutional rights by entering our home where there were zero allegations of a crime, much less a felony. There is no question he did.
It turns out that Blevins hardly is alone in being ignorant about the Alabama Sheriff's Handbook. We know of one former sheriff himself, along with an infamous Shelby County attorney, who have proven they also are dense on a subject they should know a little about.
(To be continued)