E.D.Mich.: QI in § 1983 case over scope of search outside SW; items were related

Plaintiff’s § 1983 suit against participants in the search of his property alleging the search was overbroad is dismissed for qualified immunity. The officers showed restraint and the items seized were reasonably related to the offense under investigation. Hoeltzel v. Smith, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48222 (E.D.Mich. Mar. 17, 2022):*

The clearly settled law in this circuit holds that “a search does not become invalid merely because some items not covered by a warrant are seized.” Sampson, 655 F. App’x at 389. Seizure of non-specified items becomes unconstitutional only where the searchers exhibit “a flagrant disregard” for the search warrant’s limitations. Ibid. The record in this case does not show that.

An officer “can seize [an] item not listed in a warrant” when “it is reasonably related to the offense which formed the basis for the search warrant.” Wheeler v. City of Lansing, 660 F.3d 931, 938 (6th Cir. 2011). Even if the seizure of a particular unlisted item is not supported by probable cause, qualified immunity may protect the officer. Id. at 839 (holding that courts need not determine the probable cause question “for purposes of granting qualified immunity”.). Settled law establishes that a questionable seizure of items that later are found to be entirely legal and unrelated to any criminal conduct is shielded by qualified immunity as long as the on-scene evaluation of the items by the seizing officer was not “objectively unreasonable.” Libretti v. Woodson, 600 F. App’x 367, 371 (6th Cir. 2015) (upholding seizure of “legal herbs” during search for evidence relating to the crime of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, along with certain documents that turned out to be unrelated to the charged crimes). The defendants’ determination that all of the disputed items were reasonably related to the suspected crime was not objectively unreasonable here.

The defendants’ conduct during the search demonstrated caution and restraint, and any questionable decision to seize particular items fell far short of “flagrant disregard” for the boundaries of the warrant authorization. …

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