Constitutional Rights against Unreasonable Searches Not Maintained in Cases of Mistaken Identity

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens’ Constitutional Rights against unreasonable searches, however these rights are not maintained in cases of mistaken identity.

Mistaken Identity

Photo by: Ben Tesch

Photo by: Ben Tesch

Mistakes are known to happen, and sometimes when those blunders are made by law enforcement it can result in the wrong person being arrested. One of the areas where law enforcement has been known to slip-up occasionally is with mistaken identity. Police can often confuse an innocent person with a suspect due to issues such as address typos, similar names, or matching physical description. When this occurs, it can have prolonged emotional and even criminal repercussions.

Wrong man

When cases of mistaken identity are seen as the blunders by law enforcement that they are, those officers involved may end up temporarily or permanently removed from their position in the police department. They may also face civil lawsuits brought out by those they wrongly identified. Last year an Indiana man named DeShawn Franklin was awarded a whopping $18 settlement for a case of mistaken identity that took place four years prior. During the incident in question, officers entered the home Franklin lived in with his parents and went into the high school senior’s room where he lay asleep in his bed. After the startled teenager struggled due to the frightening scene, officers then punched him several times and hit him with a Taser gun before hauling him off to jail.

Mistaken Identity

Photo by: Lil Treyco

It turned out that Franklin, who matched the police’s description of a slender African-American man with dreadlocks, was not the person authorities were looking for. The man officers were searching for was Franklin’s older brother who wasn’t present at the time.

Arrested anyway

Sometimes an arrest based on mistaken identity doesn’t end with such profitable settlements and can still result in charges for the person arrested. This can happen if the person wrongfully detained ends up having warrants, being wanted for other crimes, or if illegal contraband is found in their possession during a search. This was the case for a Utah man named Wendell Navanick, who just so happened to share a name and birth year with another Utah man who had an outstanding warrant out for his arrest. When authorities located the warrantless Wendell Navanick, they ignored the man’s statement of being the wrong guy and booked him into the Salt Lake City Jail. During the booking procedure, authorities found drugs on Navanick and charged him with possession of a controlled substance. Although it was quickly discovered that authorities had not arrested the right person, Navanick was still charged with possession related to the drugs that were found on him during the booking process.

Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. “ The United States Courts adds however, that the Fourth Amendment “is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law.”

Unreasonable search loophole

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Photo by: West Midlands Police

When a victim of mistaken identity ends up with charges related to a search of their person or property because they were believed to be someone else, that search is not considered unconstitutional by law. In the case of the State of Utah v. Navanick, the defendant tried to claim his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated with the bookings search since it was “predicated upon an invalid arrest” however that claim for an appeal was shot down. The arrest was validated since the officers were found to have probable cause. “The only question is whether it was reasonable for the arresting officers to believe that the person arrested was the one sought.” (Gero v. Hanault). Anyone who is facing criminal charges related to a mistaken identity search is strongly urged to consult with a criminal defense attorney to ensure that all Constitutional Rights during criminal proceedings are protected.

Exercising the Right to Protest in Utah without Breaking the Law

The right to protest is one that residents in Utah and throughout the country have been exercising a great deal lately, and it is important for protesters to know how to exercise that right without breaking the law.

Right to protest

Right to Protest

Photo by: Jean-Philippe Bourque

Within a little over a week, Americans have participated in three different events where citizens were exercising their right to protest.

• January 20th, 2017. Inauguration Day “anti-Trump” protests began peacefully yet ended in over 200 protesters being arrested and several police officers being injured. Additionally, glass store fronts were smashed and a limo was set on fire. The damage by the protesters exceeded 100 thousand dollars.

• January 21st, 2017. Women’s March on Washington. With nearly half a million citizens supporting the cause of women’s rights and exercising their right to protest, there was not a single arrest made during that demonstration.

• January 27th, 2017. March for Life. A protest that like the other demonstrations, also brought in hundreds of thousands of individuals exercising their right to protest, ended with less than ten arrests; those arrests made were from individuals opposing the protest.

These three different events where citizens used their right to free speech to rally together on behalf of a cause all began legally, but only one of the demonstrations ended in mass arrests, property damage, and injuries.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment specifically mentions the word “peaceably” regarding the right to protest. It does not excuse violence, property damage, or other dangerous behavior.

Rules of protesting

Photo by: Yannick Gingras

Photo by: Yannick Gingras

All citizens should practice their right to protest and are protected while exercising that right, but there are rules associated with all public behavior. Not only are demonstrators to refrain from protesting on private property without permission or a permit, they must abide by certain restraints regarding time and location. Additionally, if a protester demonstrates their cause while assaulting others, damaging property, or inciting a riot, they are subject to criminal penalties. Those who face charges following a protest are encouraged to seek legal counsel.

Interfering with an Arrest in Utah When No Crime Has Been Committed

If a Utah police officer attempts to detain a suspect but a bystander is certain no crime has been committed, it is still recommended to allow officers to proceed to avoid facing possible charges for interfering with an arrest.

Do as you’re told

Photo by: Keith Allison

Photo by: Keith Allison

Law enforcement has been under increased scrutiny lately for many hot button issues such as police brutality and violation of constitutional rights. This has caused a widespread public disregard toward those once respected in uniform. This insolence toward law enforcement may give Utah residents the false notion that they can stand their ground if they feel someone is being arrested without cause. Unfortunately by interfering with an arrest, that person meddling may end up facing charges for their intrusion even if the charges for which they were interfering are dropped or deemed unlawful.

Interfering with an arrest

If an individual refuses to comply with law enforcement or attempts to stop a police officer from making an arrest, they can be charged with resisting arrest, otherwise known by Utah law as interference with arresting officer. Utah Code 76-8-305 states “a person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if he has knowledge, or by the exercise of reasonable care should have knowledge, that a peace officer is seeking to effect a lawful arrest or detention of that person or another and interferes with the arrest or detention
(1) use of force or any weapon;
(2) the arrested person’s refusal to perform any act required by lawful order:
(a) necessary to effect the arrest or detention; and
(b) made by a peace officer involved in the arrest or detention; or

(3) the arrested person’s or another person’s refusal to refrain from performing any act that would impede the arrest or detention.”

Lawful is irrelevant

Interfering with an arrest

Photo by: Stever Baker

Although the above section states that no one should interfere with a lawful arrest, the world lawful is irrelevant as courts often look at statute’s plain language. For this reason, whether or not an arrest is lawful shouldn’t cause a person to decide that they have the right to get in the middle of police business. According to the State [of Washington] v. Holeman, “The determination of whether an arrest is lawful is often difficult and should not be left to bystanders who may have only a limited knowledge of the relevant law and who may let their emotions control their judgment.”

Acting within the scope of their authority

When it comes to making an arrest, officers are expected only to think they are making a lawful arrest. In the case of American Fork v. Pena-Flores, Nov 16 2000, it states: “Although police must have reasonable suspicion in order to make a legal detention, the use of “lawful” in section 76-8-305 does not automatically incorporate this standard in determining whether a person is guilty of interfering with a peace officer. So long as a police officer is acting within the scope of his or her authority and the detention or arrest has the indicia of being lawful, a person can be guilty of interfering with a peace officer even when the arrest or detention is later determined to be unlawful.”

Know the law

Regardless of what Utah residents feel toward law enforcement, they are not entitled to stop an officer from doing their job. Interfering with an arrest, whether or not it turns out to be lawful, will usually end badly for those trying to rid the world of injustice, one arrest at a time. If someone feels a person was detained unlawfully without reasonable suspicion or if they witnessed extreme use of force by police or a complete disregard for the detainee’s constitutional rights, it is best to file a complaint with the arresting officer’s supervisor. For those who overstepped their place and are facing charges for interfering with an arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney.