7th Circuit upholds warrantless search, detention in MN suicide-threat case

7th Circuit upholds warrantless search, detention in MN suicide-threat case

[Ed. – A tough one.  The old saying, “Hard cases make bad law,” comes to mind.]

[Milwaukee resident Krysta] Sutterfield’s doctor called police after Sutterfield left an appointment by saying she might as well go home and “blow her brains out,” after Sutterfield had gotten some bad news. Sutterfield was wearing an empty gun holster to the appointment, so her doctor assumed Sutterfield had a gun.

Sutterfield later disputed making the comment.

Police went to Sutterfield’s home but didn’t find her. Later, Sutterfield called her doctor and said she was not in need of assistance and to call off the police.

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.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller in Milwaukee dismissed the case and Sutterfield appealed.

The police officers who initially were searching for Sutterfield prepared a Statement of Emergency Detention by Law Enforcement Officer according to Wisconsin’s civil commitment law, Chapter 51. …

When police are acting under the emergency aid doctrine, the court found, a search warrant, even if there’s time to get one, may not be relevant because there is no suspicion of criminal activity.

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