Reason: Does Letting Police Enter Your House Give Them Permission To Wreck It? by Jacob Sullum
The Institute for Justice asks the Supreme Court to clarify a doctrine that shields cops from responsibility for outrageous conduct.
When Shaniz West agreed to let police enter her house so they could arrest her former boyfriend, she had no idea she was consenting to a barrage of tear gas grenades that would smash her windows, tear holes in her walls and ceiling, and leave a sticky, noxious residue on her food, furniture, electronics, and clothing. But after she sued for damages, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the officers responsible for making her home uninhabitable were shielded from liability because it was not “clearly established” at the time that such a wanton destruction of property violated the Fourth Amendment.
In a petition filed today, the Institute for Justice urges the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision and in the process clarify the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which in many cases lets police off the hook for outrageous conduct when their victims are unable to identify prior rulings involving similar facts. That understanding of the doctrine effectively immunizes officers who find novel ways to violate people’s constitutional rights.