CA5: QI granted officer who detained business owner for 4 hrs for civil violation

Detaining a business owner for four hours for civil violations and pulling a gun wasn’t clearly established as a Fourth Amendment violation, so the officer gets [away with it by getting] qualified immunity. Okorie v. Crawford, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 10918 (5th Cir. Apr. 11, 2019). Proof once again that qualified immunity is slowly eating away the Fourth Amendment:

We confront a question that courts have rarely had to address in the nearly four decades since Summers was decided: May the government detain the owner of a business that is being searched not because of suspected criminal activity but instead for possible civil violations?

This question arises from the search of a medical clinic that resulted in the doctor being detained for three to four hours. During that time, an investigator pushed the doctor down, drew his gun multiple times, and limited the doctor’s movement and access to facilities such as the restroom. We conclude that the doctor’s allegations establish a Fourth Amendment violation based on the intrusiveness of the detention, but that the sparse caselaw in this area had not clearly established that unlawfulness. As a result, the investigator is entitled to qualified immunity.

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