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Stanton v. Sims

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: November 4, 2013
Case #: 12-1217
Per Curiam
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-1217_bpmc.pdf

Criminal Procedure: A police officer is entitled to qualified immunity, even if a search of a home is unconstitutional, when in pursuit of a fleeing suspect; irrespective of whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony.

Petitioner, a police officer, responded to a disturbance in a neighborhood known for gang violence.  As the officers approached, several men in the street ran towards Respondent's residence. Determining the behavior was suspicious, Petitioner ordered the men to stop loud enough for everyone around to hear.  One man looked at Petitioner, turned, and ran into the residence. Petitioner pursued the man; kicking through a fence gate, which struck Respondent, injuring her forehead and shoulder. 

Respondent sued Petitioner in Federal District Court under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging an illegal search of Respondent's home without a warrant.  The District Court granted summary judgment to Petitioner, finding; 1) Petitioner’s entry was justifiable in light of the dangerous circumstances, as well as Respondent’s decreased expectation of privacy in the curtilage of her home; and 2) even if the search was unconstitutional, Petitioner was entitled to qualified immunity.  Respondent appealed, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed both findings. 

The Supreme Court granted certiorari and granted Respondent’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court only addressed the question of whether Petitioner was entitled to qualified immunity, and reversed the Ninth Circuit ruling, relying on heavy precedent, finding that Petitioner was so entitled.