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7th Circuit rules on police chase violations

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Police chases do not violate the Fourth and 14th Amendments when the officers involved do not intentionally and forcibly halt the fleeing subject, according to a ruling today by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case came out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. It follows an April decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that gave police officers significant protection from lawsuits by suspects who lead them on car chases.

This 7th Circuit decision affirms the District Court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants in the combined appeal of Floyd Steen, personal representative of the estate of Brandon S. Hilbert v. Robert Myers, Brad Ridenour, and City of Portland, Indiana and Richard Philebaum and Teresa Philebaum, as legal guardians of Robyn A. Philebaum, and Robyn A. Philebaum, individually, v. City of Portland, Indiana, Portland Police Department, Robert Myers, and Brad Ridenour.  The court remanded the state law claims back to state court.

The plaintiffs in the combined appeal represent the interests of Brandon Hilbert and Robyn Philebaum. Hilbert was killed and Philebaum was severely injured after a high-speed police chase in which Myers pursued Hilbert's motorcycle.

Myers and Hilbert had a previous encounter in which Myers and another officer mistook Hilbert for an assault subject and held him at gunpoint until determining he was not the wanted suspect. Hilbert's relatives argue he was left in fear of Myers because of this and may explain why he fled.

Myers spotted Hilbert and Philebaum sitting on a parked motorcycle and suspected Hilbert was driving on a suspended license and had no motorcycle license. Once Myers received confirmation that Hilbert's license was indeed suspended and he did not have a motorcycle endorsement, he drove towards the motorcycle, and Hilbert and Philebaum fled. Myers pursued the motorcycle for several minutes at a high speed until the motorcycle went off the road at a sharp turn. Hilbert died and Philebaum was left seriously injured.

The plaintiffs brought suit in the state courts of Indiana, combining both the federal and state law claims. They appealed the District Court's ruling that summary judgment was appropriate with respect to Myers. The court cites County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833 (1998) as largely controlling. The Fourth Amendment seizure does not occur during a police chase unless an officer intentionally and forcibly halts the fleeing subject. The court cites Brower v. County of Inyo. The District Court ruled the argument Myers struck the motorcycle was "unsupported speculation" and the 7th Circuit agreed.

The appellants argue the history of antagonism between Myers and Hilbert should be considered; however, the court finds it would only allow an inference about whether a collision would have been intentional - and no evidence exists proving a collision.

Under the 14th Amendment, the District Court found Myers conduct did not rise to the level of shocking the conscience, which was established by the Lewis case.

"The question for us, therefore, is whether there is sufficient evidence of some intent to harm that goes beyond the traffic stop, the decision to pursue, and the decision to not terminate the pursuit at some point before the crash," Judge Kanne wrote. "We find no evidence of that intent."

Judge Kanne states the Supreme Court has set the bar very high in pursuing 14th Amendment claims that arise out of a police chase, and even if the court questions Myers was negligent, reckless, or deliberately indifferent, under standards set by Lewis, those questions are to be determined for state courts and the law of tort.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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