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Judge: Officer is entitled to qualified immunity

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A federal judge ruled in favor of a defendant police officer in a suit alleging he conducted a warrantless and unreasonable search of a home to find a gun mentioned in a 911 call.

In Robert Butler v. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Dept., et al., No. 1:07-CV-1103, U.S. District Chief Judge David Hamilton in the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, found Tuesday that Deputy Glenn Schmidt was entitled to qualified immunity on Robert Butler's claim the officer violated his Fourth Amendment rights by entering his home.

Schmidt, then a deputy with the Marion County Sheriff's Department, which merged with the Indianapolis Police Department to form IMPD, responded to a 911 call to Butler's home that shots had been fired. Butler's girlfriend, McKenna Decker, called police to report Butler shot at her car while at his house.

Butler told Schmidt he shot his gun near Decker's car, but the gun was now inside. Schmidt went inside the home and got the gun. Butler entered a plea agreement, but for unknown reasons, the plea wasn't entered and the prosecutor eventually dismissed all of the charges.

Butler claimed the police department and officers who arrived on the scene deprived him of his constitutional rights. Chief Judge Hamilton agreed with Schmidt that he is entitled to qualified immunity on Butler's search and seizure claim. Schmidt argued that even if he had violated Butler's right by entering his home without a warrant, a reasonable law enforcement officer wouldn't have understood that this act would have violated his constitutional rights under the circumstances.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police may enter a home without a warrant to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury.

"On the merits, there is certainly room to argue here about whether the danger posed by the loaded gun in the unoccupied home posed a threat of imminent injury," wrote the chief judge. "In the quiet calm of a courtroom years later, it might be easy to say that it did not."

But Schmidt faced an ambiguous and potentially explosive situation and acted swiftly and with minimal intrusion to control the greatest source of danger, Chief Judge Hamilton continued.

The District Court also found Schmidt had probable cause to arrest Butler for criminal recklessness. Summary judgment was also entered in favor of IMPD and the two other officers who responded because the facts are insufficient to support under any of Butler's theories that his constitutional rights were violated.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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