Vasquez v. Maloney, 2021 WL 826214 (2nd Cir. 2021)
Officers stopped Kim Vasquez as he and his daughters walked out of a Target store at a mall. Vasquez was helping his daughters into his wife’s car when the officers detained and frisked him for weapons. The officers acknowledged there was no reasonable suspicion that Vasquez had committed a crime; however, one officer had seen Vasquez before and thought it was possible there was a warrant out for Vasquez’s arrest. In fact, there had been a warrant that was cleared up several months prior.
The court also held that the assisting officers who relied on one officer’s “unconfirmed hunch that an arrest warrant might possibly exist” should have known better and also were not entitled to qualified immunity.
Vasquez sued. The officers asked the court to grant qualified immunity and dismiss the lawsuit. Qualified immunity aims to protect “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” The court declined to apply qualified immunity, holding that “the officers did not satisfy even the low threshold [of reasonable suspicion] that would satisfy either justification for an investigative Terry stop. That is, they offered no specific and articulable facts—at all—supporting an inference that Vasquez was (1) involved in or (2) wanted in connection with a crime.”
The officer’s “belief that ‘there might be’ a warrant for Vasquez’s arrest,” with nothing more, was a blatantly unconstitutional basis for a stop and frisk. The court also held that the assisting officers who relied on one officer’s “unconfirmed hunch that an arrest warrant might possibly exist” should have known better and also were not entitled to qualified immunity. Not much else to say, is there?
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