Torres v. Madrid

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: December 18, 2019
  • Case #: 19-292
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 769 F. App’x 654 (10th Cir. 2019)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether an unsuccessful attempt to detain a suspect by use of physical force constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment or whether physical force must succeed in the detainment of a suspect to constitute a seizure.

Respondents (police officers) went to an apartment complex to arrest an individual involved in an organized crime ring. At the individual’s apartment, Respondents observed Petitioner standing near a vehicle. As Respondents approached, Petitioner got in the vehicle and started the engine. Petitioner started to drive away, resulting in Respondents shooting Petitioner with their weapons, but Petitioner still managed to leave the scene. After being identified later at a hospital, officers arrested Petitioner for multiple crimes. Petitioner filed a civil rights complaint that alleged excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for Respondents on the ground that a seizure had not occurred by Respondents’ use of force. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that continued flight after being shot by officers does not constitute a seizure, which requires restraint of a person’s freedom of movement for the purposes of a Fourth Amendment claim. Petitioner now argues to the Supreme Court that the Tenth Circuit’s decision misinterprets Court precedent as dicta where the Court acknowledged that seizure can occur by the mere grasping of an individual even when such physical force fails to subdue the individual. To bolster this argument, Petitioner notes that the Tenth Circuit’s decision also conflicts with the common law meaning of a seizure, which Court precedent cites as including the slightest physical contact.

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