Some people in Texas may be affected by a ruling of the United States Supreme Court regarding the Fourth Amendment and the concept of “seizure.” The case involves a civil rights lawsuit in which a woman was shot by police while fleeing.
The incident that sparked the case began in 2014 when police approached a woman in her car. She said that she believed they were trying to carjack her and drove away. The officers claimed they were worried about their own safety and shot the woman twice. The woman continued driving until she came to another car that was running and switched into that one. She then drove another 75 miles to a hospital, and police detained her there the following day. In 2016, in a civil rights lawsuit, the woman said that the shooting was an unreasonable seizure.
There are two major cases that have addressed what counts as “seizure.” One argues that a person who believes they are not free to leave has been “seized,” and this appears to be the case since officers fired at the woman. However, another case says that if a person believes they are not free to leave but decide to flee anyway, the person is only “seized” if caught.
The definition of “seizure”
In this case, officers are arguing that the woman was not stopped, so she could not be said to have been caught or seized. The woman’s attorneys are responding that she was seized twice, once when she was shot and again when she was taken into custody at the hospital. How the court interprets contact in this case could affect a person’s rights in a later case if an officer makes certain physical contact but does not detain the person.
A person who is detained by law enforcement for alleged criminal offenses has certain rights, and if those rights are not observed, some evidence or even the entire case might be dismissed in some situations. Therefore, it is critical to determine the parameters of language used in laws and amendments such as the Fourth Amendment.