According to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S constitution, government officials may not conduct unreasonable searches and seizures. Although the amendment was deemed to be clear, the case of Torres v. Madrid has quickly turned that notion around. The Supreme Court is expected to soon hear oral arguments regarding the case.
During the summer of 2014, New Mexico state police officers responded to a call at an apartment complex in Albuquerque, N.M. Officers noticed a car parked with its engine on. When the officers approached the vehicle, the driver quickly drove off. The driver later said that she believed the officers were carjackers and thus was scared for her life. In response to her fleeing the scene officers shot at the vehicle and struck the woman. Having a heavily damaged vehicle, she then stole a Kia Soul, which she drove to Gran, N.M., to receive medical attention. The woman was arrested soon after arriving at the hospital.
Two years after the incident, the woman filed a civil rights lawsuit against the two officers. The lawsuit stated that the two officers conducted an unreasonable Fourth Amendment “seizure.” However, the courts would ultimately rule against Torres and her criminal defense team in favor of the two officers. The courts stated that the incident did not translate into a “seizure.”
The best interpretation of when a person has been properly seized comes from the United States v. Mendenhall case. The case stated that a person is seized when they believe that they are not free to go. According to the plaintiff in Torres v. Madrid, being shot at clearly demonstrates that you’re not allowed to leave the scene. While previous courts have ruled against the women, this could change at the Supreme Court level.
If you believe that your rights have been violated by law enforcement, it’s important to retain an attorney. A lawyer could investigate your case and fight for your rights.