Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Denial of qualified immunity affirmed for police officer for arresting lawyer who tried to help neighbor pulled over for DUI

In Wilson v. Kittoe, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge King joined by Judges Michael and Traxler rejected the police officer defendant's qualified immunity appeal, in a case where the officer was trying to arrest a guy for drunk driving and the guy's neighbor, a lawyer, wakes up, comes out, starts trying to help out the guy getting arrested with some gratuitous legal advice, and winds up riling the officer enough to get arrested himself, under Virginia's "obstruction" statute, Va. Code 18.2-460.

I guess that between this Wilson case and the case of Rogers v. Pendleton, 249 F.3d 279 (4th Cir. 2001), it is clearly established that law enforcement officials should not arrest Virginia lawyers at their homes for obstruction of justice unless the lawyers do something more than to exercise their constitutional right to refuse to shut up.

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