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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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