No Basis for Demanding Passenger ID Results in Illegal Detention

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Johnson v. Thibodaux City, (5th Cir. 2018)

Jackalene Johnson, Dawan Every, and Kelly Green were riding in a truck driven by Latisha Robertson. An officer recognized Robertson and knew she had an outstanding warrant. So, he stopped the truck, asked Robertson to exit, and handcuffed her. The officer couldn’t put Robertson into his car because his police service dog occupied the backseat.

Other officers arrived and one of them placed Robertson into the back of a patrol car. Two of the officers then approached the truck and asked Johnson, Every and Green for identification. Green provided her name and birthdate, but Johnson and Every refused to identify themselves. The officers arrested them for resisting an officer by refusing to identify themselves during detention.

Subsequently, Johnson and Every physically resisted arrest to some degree and the officers took the two women to the ground. And, as an officer walked Every to his police car, Every began to run and the officer used a TASER to subdue her.

Johnson and Every sued, alleging unlawful arrest, excessive use of force, and that the city failed to properly train the officers. A jury sided with the officers at which point Johnson and Every asked the court to award judgment as a matter of law (suggesting that the law was on their side, even if the jury thought otherwise). When the trial court denied their motion, Johnson and Every appealed the illegal detention.

The Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The court held that “even in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows that Johnson’s detention lasted longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the stop.” Thus, the jury verdict was premised on an “erroneous legal conclusion” since Johnson was not lawfully stopped when the officers demanded her identification (illegal detention). Once the officer arrested Robertson, there was no reasonable suspicion to detain or demand identification from Johnson, Every and Green, and the three should have been allowed to go on their way.

Ken Wallentine

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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