The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

Fed court finds search, seizure of guns OK without warrant or evidence of crime

no-knock-police-raid-1

Photo: www.dcclothesline.com

A U.S. circuit court of appeals gave its blessing last week to the search of a gun enthusiast’s home, as well as the seizure of her weapons, while lacking both search warrant and evidence that she had committed a crime.

The case originated three years ago when Krysta Sutterfield allegedly made “a suicidal remark” to her psychiatrist, Dr. Michelle Bentle, “during a difficult session,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

After Bentle phoned her fears to the Milwaukee police, officers were dispatched to Sutterfield’s home, but she wasn’t there. According to the Sentinel:

But officers returned to Sutterfield’s residence that evening, some nine hours after her comment to her doctor. They found her at home. She told them she was fine, did not want their help and asked them to leave, and called 911 when they would not.

The officers forcibly entered, handcuffed Sutterfield and took her to the county’s Mental Health Complex.

They also seized a handgun and several out-of-state concealed-carry licenses, found inside a locked CD case, and a BB gun that resembled a Glock firearm.
Sutterfield later sued.

She lost in federal district court; the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court opinion. According to the Sentinel:

Sutterfield, 45, claimed police violated her rights against unreasonable search and seizure and Second Amendment rights to keep a gun, but a district judge dismissed the case.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 75-page opinion analyzing existing law about when police may act without search warrants, upheld the decision but suggested there might be better ways to balance personal privacy rights in the context of emergency mental health evaluations.

“The intrusions upon Sutterfield’s privacy were profound,” the opinion stated. “At the core of the privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment is the right to be let alone in one’s home.”

But against those fundamental rights, the court found that, “There is no suggestion that [police] acted for any reason other than to protect Sutterfield from harm.”

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Arizona vs. Gant that “Warrantless searches are per se unreasonable, subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.”

Among those exceptions are exigent circumstances, defined as “Those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons,” according to People vs. Ramey.

Exigent circumstances would have been a good argument for the officers when they first arrived at Sutterfield’s home. But in the hours that had elapsed until they finally forcibly gained entry, the police had ample time to obtain a warrant.

Michael Dorstewitz is a recovering Michigan trial lawyer and former research vessel deck officer. He has written extensively for BizPac Review.

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  • Steven

    Wait! All libs are reasonable, no? So does this mean that any reasonable lib can call the cops claiming that the guy next door, with a gun in his home, requires prompt action to prevent physical harm to other persons?

    Bloomie to fund “Does Your Neighbor Have a Gun” program in 3-2-1..

    I guess I better keep the grass mowed and scrape the NRA sticker off the F-250.

    Steven

    • Paul Dragotto

      i carry my rifles in a guitar case! my nieghbors would freak, if the saw a gun case.

  • magic1114

    Coming soon to YOUR front door: the knock of a “reasonable” LEO looking to only protect you from yourself…

    • Robert

      Boom! There it is.

  • Gal Spunes

    What if the woman went and committed suicide? What if the shrink had done nothing? What if the police had not acted on the information from a medical professional? You know the lawsuits would start flying…

    I don’t like the whole warrantless police action either, and I certainly don’t like the camel’s nose of ‘exigent circumstances’ from what amounts to heresay (even coming from a supposed professional)….but what better options are there if we wish to try and prevent a suicide in such a context?

    In this case, I think the fact that there was a 9 hour delay proves the bullsh!t claim of ‘exigent circumstances’. They also didn’t stop at searching her home and removing weapons (as if she couldn’t kill herself any other way), they removed a freakin’ BB-gun and then unlawfully detained her. I hope she appeals and wins her suit.

    • Steven

      I’ve often wondered, Gal, what would lower the crime rate more, banning prescription happy psychiatrists, or banning guns. Obviously, I have no proof, but I’m voting for banning the shrinks (and libs) as my crime reduction strategery.

      Steven

      • Gal Spunes

        I’d ban the kind of sh!tty parent that happily puts Johnny on meds because they pathetically allow their child to be abused by the government school system.

      • Paul Dragotto

        agree. ADD medication screwed up my son. had to take the ex too court because she put him on meds with out my consent.

      • elmcqueen3

        Statistics show that more doctors kill people than guns…Also swimming pools kill more kids than guns…Damn those guns!

      • John1943

        School football also kills more kids than guns.

      • Paul Dragotto

        her fault for telling her shrink she felt like commiting suicide. if you get that bad, go to the ER! they will stick you in a mental instituiton.

      • Xavier

        We do not know exactly what was said or the context. Many people make remarks every day, when taken out of context, could be construed as threats.

        It seems to me that if the psychiatrist were concerned enough to contact the police, in the 9 hour period following the session she could have called to check up on her patient and advised the police of her status. The medical board needs to take a close look at this doctor and determine if she should keep her license.

    • Citizen911

      I agree, LEOs can’t prevent suicides, they need to get that through their heads… If an ingenious person wants to kill themselves then your gas oven or an electric heater in your bath tub will fit the bill. A gun is just a tool, even for people that want to end their lives. My point being is that there in no good excuse to circumvent the 2nd and 4th amendments and perform “warrantless searches and seizures” just to prevent a “possible” suicide.

      • hawkeye

        The USSC has defined the duties of LEO do not include protecting the public.

      • Mark Shells

        I remember a case long ago when the court stated that police officers did not have a responsibility to any one individual, only the public at whole….was this person a whole public by herself? funny how the law changes with the wind isn’t it?

      • Wise2TheGame

        That’s because underneath the surface there really is No “LAW”.

    • Xavier

      Is it within the scope of the government to enter a private home and prevent a suicide?

      What happens when a person is found to be on medication that has depression as a side effect? What about people being treated for depression or anti-social conditions? Does that justify warrantless entry, search and seizure?

      The police didn’t remove knives, or rope, or medications, or have the gas turned off, or take her car keys, or barricade her garage to prevent CO2 poisoning…

      But they did seize her guns. Telling, isn’t it?

      • Mark Shells

        very much so.

      • MyronJPoltroonian

        “CO” poisoning. CO² is carbon dioxide, CO is carbon monoxide.

      • Xavier

        Thank you for the correction. I don’t know how that got by me. Just getting old, I guess.

    • Lars Skiipole

      You need to jettison your unicorn. If the woman is going to commit suicide, She will do it with or without a gun. Find out what the judges politics are.

      There needs to be term limits for judges. No more lifetime appointments.

    • Mike

      So we’ll change freedom for 300 million plus people because of this one instance? You sound like a typical progressive. Ban all peanut products because less than 1% are allergic to it! Stop messing with my freedom, it’s dangerous. I’ll tell you what’s more dangerous than these rogue cases…it’s more dangerous removing freedom. Hundreds of million innocent people were killed by government when firearms are banned or severely restricted. Yeah, for your safety works out so well.

      • Gal Spunes

        I think you have seriously misunderstood my comment.

      • Mike

        Sorry, I should have read it twice. Got ya’ now….thanks.

    • carlcasino

      If the nut job want ‘s to commit suicide I believe intervention is necessary to prevent her from botching the job.

  • Xavier

    ________ may be a sign of mental imbalance.
    Signed, Ima Doktor

    Gun ownership? Butter? Gadsden Flags? No Trespassing signs?

  • Sunshine Kid

    I find it odd that the liberal left will condone the invasion of a home when no crime has been committed, but allowed on the basis of a “possible” suicide incident. So let me get this straight: It is seemingly OK to kill children not yet born, but woe be to anyone who wants to kill themself? What if the woman had been successful? Would they want to arrest the guns for murder?

    • MyronJPoltroonian

      From the look, I’d say that doggie just swallowed a liberal.

  • Doris C

    Well I would imagine this at the least will keep people from telling all to their Psychiatrist. Not to mention this psychiatrist losing a bunch of patients because she called the police on this lady.I think its shameful. Now really sick folk will be scared to tell Dr how they really feel for fear of being dragged out of their home and sent to institutional care.

    • kiljoy616

      That a bad thing why. Some times you have to follow an old idea. Loose lips sink Ships. In this case her ship got pounded. Now she knows better.

  • TeaParty Patriot

    .
    I was under the impression that a psycho babbler was bound by oath not to reveal the privileged conversations between patient and psycho babbler. Is sounds to me like the psycho babbler interpreted the suicidal remark incorrectly and should be taken to court and sued within an inch of her practice for revealing confidential information without just cause.
    .
    If this decision is allowed to stand it is another chink in the 2nd amendment all the gun grabbers have to do is get some idiot pseudo intellect with a degree in psycho-babbling to alleged that you made a remark to harm some idiot and the courts can search and seize your property without a warrant or just cause.
    .

    • Mark Shells

      Not anymore! this so called president has set forth rules and reg requiring the tell all if the person might have a gun at home. Us vets don’t say anything anymore, rather die a free man than live as a slave to this society.

      • SunflowerSurfer

        But our time is coming (Army 28 years). And it seems with each passing day it is getting closer faster. Can hardly wait.

  • http://www.virginiaconservative.blogspot.com/ BobMbx

    Did she get her stuff back?

  • http://www.virginiaconservative.blogspot.com/ BobMbx

    Why didn’t they remove the roof to keep her from jumping off of it?

  • Robert

    I wonder how many cops going to be shot at or killed without warrant. That federal judge is total wrong, his brain to be rewired.

  • TATER

    first of all the doctor and patient privelage is sacred–the doc violated that privelage –so sue the doctor for over stepping her vows–this is like the movie with tom cruise something to do with crimes u MAY commit and being arrested for it –the minority something (i forget the exact name of the movie) all in all this is bull–they had 9 hours to get a warrant –so be carful what u say in front of anyone especially ur doc cause obama has asked docs to tell on there patients if they guns–steven i guess i will have to scrape of my nra stickers along with my national association for gun rights stickers off my f250 too

    • MyronJPoltroonian

      “Report”, it was called “The Minority Report”, which was based on a 1956 science fiction novel of the same name by Phillip K. Dick. (Sheesh! And people make fun of we who are interested in finding out what possibilities the future holds in store for society. Just because it’s in an entertaining manner doesn’t make it any less valid.)

  • Clista Hancock

    Just more evidence that we are living in a police state.

  • Larry Cowden

    The continuing rise in violent physical abuse by police on citizens should have every one concerned. That knock on the door from the police no longer means they are there for YOUR safety. It does mean you should be prepared for a violent confrontation. And if you have firearms, it is time you look to concealed vaults that are locked and not found by any normal search methods. It’s your life.

  • Mike Rodgers

    Unlimited DHS anti-terrorism money is being used to create a Police State / Surveillance State in the U.S. Cut off their money…The Obama Administration is militarizing our local police.

  • PT

    Luckily all my firearms sank in a boating accident. I forget which lake, river or ocean it was though.

  • PT

    7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is located in Chicago. That should say a lot about their rulings.

  • Jerry Llewellyn

    The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not
    be needed until they try to take it away.
    Thomas Jefferson

    The people who abuse guns are the ones that should be held accountable. Lets see
    who abuses our guns.

    In 1865 a Democrat shot and killed Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.

    In 1881 a left wing radical Democrat shot James Garfield, President of the United States who later died from the wound.

    In 1963 a radical left wing socialist shot and killed John F. Kennedy,
    President of the United States.

    In 1975 a left wing radical Democrat fired shots at Gerald Ford,
    President of the United States.

    In 1983 a registered Democrat shot and wounded Ronald Reagan,
    President of the United States.

    In 1984 James Hubert, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 22
    people in a McDonalds restaurant.

    In 1986 Patrick Sherrill, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 15
    people in an Oklahoma post office.

    In 1990 James Pough, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 10 people
    at a GMAC office.

    In 1991 George Hennard, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 23
    people in a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, TX.

    In 1995 James Daniel Simpson, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed
    5 coworkers in a Texas laboratory.

    In 1999 Larry Asbrook, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 8
    people at a church service.

    In 2001 a left wing radical Democrat fired shots at the White House in
    a failed attempt to kill George W. Bush, President of the US.

    In 2003 Douglas Williams, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 7
    people at a Lockheed Martin plant.

    In 2007 a registered Democrat named Seung – Hui Cho, shot and killed
    32 people in Virginia Tech.

    In 2010 a mentally ill registered Democrat named Jared Lee Loughner,
    shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 6 others.

    In 2011 a registered Democrat named James Holmes, went into a movie
    theater and shot and killed 12 people.

    In 2012 Andrew Engeldinger, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 7
    people in Minneapolis.

    In 2013 a registered Democrat named Adam Lanza, shot and killed 26
    people in a school in Newtown, CT.

    As recently as Sept 2013, an angry Democrat shot 12 at a Navy ship yard.

    Clearly, there is a problem with Democrats and guns. Not one NRA
    member, Tea Party member, or Republican conservative was involved in any of
    these shootings and murders.

    SOLUTION: It should be illegal for Democrats to own guns.…Best idea
    I’ve heard to date!

    I dont expect anyone to accept this data. Research and prove it for yourself.

  • carlcasino

    There used to be Dr.,Patient confidentially ? I certainly hope the LEO’s in my area are not gullible enough to try and enter my home under such pretenses.

  • lbc

    Let’s hope this will be the beginning of the end of Dr. Michelle Bentle’s psychiatry practice. If you can’t trust your doctor with your personal information, then you shouldn’t divulge any personal information to them.