brand logo

Call Today for a FREE Consultation

262-923-8761

24 HOUR EMERGENCY CONTACT

Supreme Court: Shooting a suspect is a constitutional ‘seizure’

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2021 | Criminal Appeals

Roxanne Torres didn’t know what was happening when men in dark tactical vests began chasing her car. She thought she was being carjacked. She fled in her Toyota FJ Cruiser, but the men shot her twice in the back.

She still managed to get away. She went to a hospital 75 miles from the scene but was airlifted back to Albuquerque. There, New Mexico State Police officers arrested her the next day.

Yes, the men in the dark tactical vests had been state police officers. What they did – chasing and shooting at Torres – is not in dispute. The question is, did they violate her constitutional rights?

Her lawyer argued that yes, the police certainly had violated her constitutional rights. Specifically, the lawyer said that the police actions violated Torres’ Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents.

The government didn’t argue that the officers had been reasonable or that they weren’t government agents. It argued that shooting Torres in the back didn’t constitute a “seizure” because it hadn’t succeeded in stopping her flight.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Ms. Torres, finding that the officers did effect a seizure when they shot her.

“Brief seizures are seizures all the same,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. “The application of physical force to the body of a person with intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the force does not succeed in subduing the person.”

The court did not actually rule that the state police had violated Torres’s rights. They merely ruled that the events constituted a seizure from a constitutional perspective.

“A seizure is just the first step in the analysis,” continued Roberts. “The Fourth Amendment does not forbid all or even most seizures — only unreasonable ones. All we decide today is that the officers seized Torres by shooting her with intent to restrain her movement.”

What does this mean for Torres?

As Chief Justice Roberts said, the Fourth Amendment only prohibits unreasonable seizures. Was shooting a suspect in the back reasonable? What if the suspect had no idea the men shooting at her were police? Shouldn’t the officers have made clear who they were?

This all matters because, if Ms. Torres’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, the police cannot use any evidence garnered as a result of that violation against her. Furthermore, she could be eligible for compensation in a civil rights lawsuit.

Archives

FindLaw Network

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)