Return to LELP Home

News from the Courts

Search the Courts

Current Issue
Back Issues

More about ILCI

A compilation of
Legal and
Law Enforcement

Contact LELP at

630 858 6392

421 Ridgewood Ave
Suite 100
Glen Ellyn, IL

Vol. 38 No. 5 Sep / Oct 2009
Subscription information and order form | About LELR | Back Issues

Highlights of This Issue

Special Bulletin:
  • Use of Force at Search Scenes: civil liability for pointing weapons where crime is non-violent in nature and no threat to officers exists

United States Supreme Court Action

  • Wrap Up of 2008-2009 Court Term
  • Outlook for the 2009-2010 Term

Federal and State Decisions

  • Arrest, Search and Seizure Issues: arrest; what constitutes; handcuffing suspect; search warrants; computers; child pornography; scope, warrantless search; residence; community caretaking function; seizure; what constitutes; street encounters; Arizona v. Gant; good faith; stop and frisk; what constitutes a stop; reasonable suspicion; throwing baggie on ground; traffic stop; use of drug dog; refusal to consent to search; check points, neighborhood safety zones; third party consent; real and apparent authority
  • Interrogation Issues: what constitutes interrogation; reading charges; taunting suspect; invocation of right to counsel; refusal to sign waiver form; subsequent questioning; public safety exception; voluntariness; use of fake polygraph test and fake results; coercion; attempt to determine motivation of suspect
  • Crimes; Trial Procedure Issues: assault upon officer; use of vehicle; use of police officer to guard defendant at trial; police expert witness on drug gang terminology
  • Civil Liability/Personnel Law Issues: liability for malicious prosecution; liability for arresting photographer at search scene; officer misconduct; liability for deadly force; suicidal subject; domestic violence; liability for excessive force; use of handcuffs and tasering non-violent misdemeanor arrestees; jail liability for arrestee’s safety; jail intake policies; liability for disability discrimination; retaliation; police discipline; adequacy of administrative process; police policies on public statements of employees; prior restraint issue


United States Supreme Court
Arrest, Search and Seizure
Crimes; Trial Procedure Issues
Civil Liability / Personnel Law
Renewal Form; Internet Services
Special Bulletin
    Special Bulletin: Liability for Use of Force at Search Scenes; Pointing Weapon Where Crime Is Non-Violent in Nature and There Is No Threat to Officers
    Baird v. Renbarger, No. 08-2436 (7th Cir. 2009).

    How much force (or display of force) can you use at a search warrant execution scene? Answer: Not more than what is reasonably necessary under the circumstances.

    A police officer participated in the execution of a search warrant that was based on the crime of altering a vehicle identification number (“VIN”) on an antique automobile. The crime itself did not involve violence; there was no suggestion that anyone at the search location was armed or dangerous; and no one at the site presented any resistance. Despite this, the officer decided to wield a 9-millimeter submachine gun, which he used to detain various people at the search site. The search ended when the officers concluded that the VIN had not actually been altered. The people who had been held temporarily filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment and state law. The court ruled the officer was liable for the use of excessive force.

    “No officer involved had reported having any suspicion that anyone at the industrial park was armed or dangerous. Nevertheless, Renbarger slung a 9-millimeter 4 [ ] submachine gun around his neck. McCracken and Renbarger then entered Baird’s shop, and McCracken told the people there to get in the center of the building and to sit down on the concrete. Everyone complied. Pointing his submachine gun, Renbarger rounded up anyone in the surrounding shops and warehouse, including a group of Amish men who were working nearby. He collected identification from everyone, except for the Amish, and held them for around two hours while the search was completed. Meanwhile, the other officers detained everyone in Robinson’s shop and searched for the [car]. The Robinson group, too, were entirely compliant. When the officers found the car, [they] examined the VIN and concluded that it had not been altered. The officers then left.”

    “. . . [P]ointing guns at persons who are compliant and present no danger is a constitutional violation. . . .”

    “We conclude that a reasonable jury could find that Renbarger violated the plaintiffs’ clearly established right to be free from excessive force when he seized and held them by pointing his firearm at them when there was no hint of danger. As a result, Renbarger is not entitled to qualified immunity.”


Subscription information and order form | About LELR

Copyright (c) 2009 by Law Enforcement Legal Publications