Rucinski v. County of Oakland, No. 15-1844 (6th Cir. 2016)-Rucinski was mentally ill. He pulled a knife on his girlfriend and demanded cigarettes. She told him where they were. He left the room to get them. She retreated to a bathroom and called the sheriff's department. Deputies responded and found Rucinski in the garage. He removed a switchblade knife from his point and opened it. He said, "Bring it on" and approached Deputy McCann. She pointed her gun at him, backed up, and repeatedly told Rucinski to drop the knife. McCann backed up until she reached the driveway which was iced over. She could not safely retreat onto it. When Rucinski got to within 5ft of her, she fired her gun the same time another deputy fired a taser. Rucinski was killed. Rucinski's family sued for Excessive Use of Force. The family also claimed that the officers either provoked the confrontation or created the cirmcumstances by poor planning that led to the shooting of Rucinski.
The court held: The deputies’ alleged bad tactics are not relevant to the question of whether their decision to use force was intentional. The use of force was reasonable and the deputies are entitled to qualified immunity.
San Francisco v. Sheehan, No. 13-1412 (SCOTUS 2015)-Sheehan was living in a group home. She was mentally ill and threatened the life of her social worker. Police were called to detain her and have her evaluated at a mental facility. They arrived and entered her room. She threatened the officers with a knife. They backed out and shut her door. The officers were concerned about what she was doing in her room. She could be arming herself with other weapons or be trying to escape. The officers re-entered. Sheehan threatened the officers with the knife. She was pepper sprayed with no effect. The officers shot her multiple times. She lived and sued the officers. She claimed that the officers violated their training and did not give her reasonable accommodation for her mental illness. San Francisco trains its officers when dealing with the mentally ill to “ensure that sufficient resources are brought to the scene,” “contain the subject” and “respect the suspect’s “comfort zone,” “use time to their advantage,” and “employ non-threatening verbal communication and open-ended questions to facilitate the subject’s participation in communication.” A hostage negotiator is also supposed to be used. The officers disregarded all of this and acted on their own. The Court held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. It did not matter that they violated their training. So long as “a reasonable officer could have believed that his conduct was justified.” In this case their actions were reasonable.
Birchfield v. North Dakota, No. 14-1468 (SCOTUS 2016)-North Dakota passed a law that made it an additional crime to refuse to submit to a breath or blood test for driving drunk. Birchfield refused to submit to a blood draw. He was charged for that offense. He appealed.
The Supreme Court held: The Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving but not warrantless blood tests.
Utah v. Strieff, 14-1373 (SCOTUS 2016)-Det Fackrell got an anonymous tip of a drug house in Salt Lake City. He watched the house for a week. He observed several people make brief stops at the house. He saw Strieff exit the house. The detective detained him nearby. He obtained Strieff’s identification and ran a warrant check on him. He had a traffic warrant and was arrested. He was searched and methamphetamine was found on him. Strieff moved to have the evidence excluded as the fruit of an unlawful seizure. The trial court denied the motion, but the Utah Supreme Court ordered the evidence suppressed. The Supreme Court held that there was no flagrant police misconduct. The discovery of a pre-existing untainted arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence being found. The evidence can be used against Strieff.