Earlier this month, Federal District Court Judge Colin Bruce granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of the Vermilion County Metropolitan Enforcement Group and two VMEG agents.
In this case, the VMEG agents were protecting the perimeter of a residence while DEA agents were conducting a consent search for drugs inside the residence. While the DEA agents searched and seized drugs from inside, the VMEG agents stood in the front doorway, sheltering from the cold. When a man approached the house, the VMEG agents stopped him at the front steps and asked him what he was doing. The man indicated that he wanted a light for his cigarette. The agents asked for identification and the man complied. The agents then searched the man, at which time the officers found a revolver, four grams of cocaine and $7,800 in the man’s coast pocket. However, the criminal prosecution against the man was dropped after the handgun and cocaine found on the man were excluded at a hearing to suppress. The criminal court found the agents’ search of the man was conducted without probable cause. The man then tried to turn the table on the VMEG agents, suing them in federal court for conducting an improper search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
However, Judge Bruce found that the VMEG agents were entitled to qualified immunity. The Court determined the VMEG agents acted reasonably when they stopped the man in front of the residence and asked him for identification. The Court also noted that, after the man produced a Kentucky identification card, he repeatedly put his hands in his pockets despite instruction by an agent to take his hands out. Surveilling the most recent case law on the subject in the Seventh Circuit, Judge Bruce held that detaining the man was reasonably necessary to protect the officers conducting the search and the man’s arrival at the residence made it reasonable for the officers to suspect that he too was involved in criminal activity. Michael Condon and Jason Rose represented the Defendants in the case.