Hill v. Scott: The Eighth Circuit Upholds the Basic Principles of the Objective Reasonableness Standard in a Case of Mistaken Identity Arrest

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Klinker, Luke
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INTRODUCTION|When a citizen sues a state or local official pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the official may assert the defense of qualified immunity, which protects government officials from "the ordeal of protracted litigation." The defense of qualified immunity frequently arises when a law enforcement officer arrests the wrong person pursuant to a facially valid warrant. If a wrongful arrestee brings a Section 1983 action against the officer, the courts are left to balance the competing interests of citizens' constitutional guarantees on the one hand and effective discharge of law enforcement practices on the other. The Supreme Court of the United States defined the modern test for qualified immunity in Harlow v. Fitzgerald. In Harlow, the Court determined, "government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Federal courts are relatively consistent in adhering to the principle set forth in Harlow, generally holding that a mistaken arrest based on a facially valid warrant does not violate the Fourth Amendment if the officers reasonably mistook the arrestee for the person named in the warrant. However, a qualified immunity analysis is fact specific. An officer's duty to perform a reasonably thorough investigation before arresting a person is a theme closely related to a wrongful arrest. In Hill v. Scott, Brian Hill ("Hill") brought a claim against a St. Paul, Minnesota police officer, Patrick Scott ("Scott"), alleging Scott had violated 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 by arresting Hill without verifying...
38 Creighton L. Rev. 691 (2004-2005)
Creighton University School of Law
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