US v. Cantu, No. 16-2191 (10th Cir. 2017)-Law Enforcement placed a utility pole camera near Cantu's home. They saw him outside his home carrying an assault rifle. He is a convicted felon. The agent's served a search warrant for the rifle. They found the rifle and arrested Cantu. Cantu tried to suppress the evidence because of the use of the camera. The court held that the use of a pole camera that could not see inside the home and could only see what a passerby could see was lawful.
US v. Alatorre, No. 16-4184 (8th Cir. 2017)-Officers did a high risk service of an arrest warrant for Alatorre at his home. The officers knocked and announced that they had an arrest warrant. The officers heard noises consistent with multiple people being in the residence before Alatorre came to the door. The officers arrested him and pulled him out to the porch. The officers did a protective sweep of the house and found in plain view drugs and guns. Alatorre was charged with the additional offenses. He tried to get the evidence suppressed, but was denied. He appealed. The Circuit Court held that a threat of accomplices launching a surprise attack from within the home is a valid officer safety concern. Alatorre's warrant was for assaulting someone with a baton, and he has a criminal history of carrying weapons. Finally, the officers did not know how many people were still in the home. The protective sweep was lawful as is the discovery of the drugs and guns.
County of Los Angeles v. Mendez, No. 16-369 (SCOTUS, 2017)-Deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. went to a residence to look for a reportedly armed and dangerous parolee. The deputies were briefed to the incident that Mendez and Garcia lived in a shack on the property. Without a warrant or warning, the deputies entered the shack. Mendez and Garcia, who was pregnant, were startled from sleep when the deputies entered. Mendez was holding a BB gun he used to kill pests. The deputies shot both the subjects seriously injuring them. Both subjects sued the deputies for excessive force. The lower court ruled that the deputies’ actions were reasonable under Graham v. Connor. The court, however, applied the 9th Circuit’s Provocation Rule under which the court held that the deputies’ actions were unreasonable. The 9th Circuit upheld this ruling. The Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari.
The Provocation Rule makes an officer’s otherwise reasonable use of force unreasonable if, (1) the officer “intentionally or recklessly provokes a violent confrontation” and (2) “the provocation is an independent Fourth Amendment violation.
The Supreme Court held unanimously that if there is no excessive force claim under Graham there is no excessive force claim at all. The Provocation Rule is an unwarranted and illogical expansion of Graham. The 9th Circuit's ruling was vacated.