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7th Circuit declines to overturn ruling on excessive force

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A man who entered a conditional plea on drug charges couldn’t convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday that it should overturn a ruling that the use of excessive force during an arrest is not a basis for suppressing evidence.

In United States of America v. Johnnie C. Collins, 12-3317, Johnnie Collins appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence found after he fled from police in his car and on foot. While he was running from the officers, Collins threw a bag to the ground. He would not cooperate with officers, so they had to kick and douse him with pepper spray. It wasn’t until officers used a Taser twice on Collins that they were able to place him in handcuffs.

The bag Collins threw away had crack and powder cocaine in it. Officers also found a wad of cash in his pocket. He was charged with possession of crack and powder cocaine with intent to distribute, and he later entered a conditional plea on the charges. In denying his motion to suppress, the District Court noted that the use of excessive force in making an arrest can’t be remedied by suppression of evidence, and even if that was an available remedy, Collins wouldn’t be entitled to relief because he threw the drugs away before any force was applied.

Collins argued that the 7th Circuit should overturn United States v. Watson, 558 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir. 2009), arguing the District Court’s reasoning was flawed with regard to when the excessive force began. He claimed it started when police started chasing him on foot.

“Collins had not yet been seized at the point when he abandoned his drugs by tossing the bag into the bushes. No seizure occurs until force is applied or the suspect submits to the officer, and the moment of seizure does not relate back to an initial show of authority that was ignored,” the judges wrote in the per curiam decision.

“Moreover, no opinion cited by Collins holds that the use of excessive force in conducting search or seizure requires suppression of the evidence seized,” the opinion states. “Collins has nothing new to say on the subject; he simply disagrees with how the case was decided, but that is not a sound reason for overturning the decision.”

 

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