Krysta Sutterfield, who has made news because of her practice of openly carrying a handgun at a local church and outside a coffee shop, drew police attention in 2011 after her psychiatrist reported a suicidal remark Sutterfield made during a difficult appointment.
Milwaukee police forced their way into a gun rights advocate’s home without a warrant and literally kidnapped her for an “emergency mental evaluation“.
Seizing her firearms were apparently justified under the circumstances and therefore protected from her violation of civil rights claims.
Sutterfield says police violated her rights with unreasonable search and seizure and her Second Amendment right to keep a gun.
Sutterfield ended up suing, only to have U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller dismiss the case. Sutterfield since appealed.
“How were the officers to know that Sutterfield was competent to assess the state of her own mental health or that, regardless of what she herself said, there was no longer any risk that she might harm herself?” the court wrote.
When police are acting under the “emergency aid doctrine“, a search warrant may not be relevant because there is no suspicion of criminal activity.
JSOnline reported that:
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,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote for three-judge panel. “At the core of the privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment is the right to be let alone in one’s home.”
But the court also found, that on the other hand, “There is no suggestion that (police) acted for any reason other than to protect Sutterfield from harm.”
In a short concurrence, Judge Daniel Manion said he hoped state legislatures will “provide for a judicially issued civil warrant process that would authorize law enforcement to enter someone’s home when there is probable cause to believe that she poses a risk to herself or others because of mental illness.”
According to the opinion:
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.
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.