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DARIN RYBURN, ET AL .Vs GEORGE R. HUFF ET AL.11-208 U.S (JANUARY 23, 2012)
Opinion by the District Court Ninth Circuit of the UNITED STATES
FACTS: Vincent Huff, a student at Bearmine-Jefferson high school, Burbank, CA, was allegedly accused of writing a letter threatening to ‘shoot up’ the school. Some students stopped attending school because they feared for their safety. This created suspicion and prompted the principal to call for assistance from the Burnbank police department. Investigations led to the involvement of Mr. and Mrs. Huff, Vincent’s parents, at their residence. Petitioning officers Derin and Zepeda were encountered hostility during their investigations on the rapidly growing case and denied the access to the Huff’s residence. This led to anxiety that the officers forced their way into the Hoff’s residence, and the Huffs felt that their Fourth Amendment right was violated.
The district court made its verdict in favor of the officers, and that their premises were not illegally entered, but the officers had authority to enter their house, from the accumulating information that they had gathered at the school. Also, Mrs. Huff had reacted in an awkward manner upon being asked about guns. According to the majority, they disagreed with the court, giving evidence that the officers should only act in imminent danger. The court arrived at its conclusion based on judicial precedence by, Judge Rawlinson i.e. Brigham City Vs Stuart and Georgia Vs Randolph. Therefore, the ruling was in favor of the petitioners.
LEGAL QUESTION: Does the state of California act against the Huff’s, which is a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights; entering their home without a warrant?
DECISION: No (Judge Rawlinson the dissenting opinion)
COURT’S RATIONALE: Even though the police officers felt alarmed when Mrs. Huff entered the house hurriedly without answering the question about having guns in the house, they had no right to enter the house. By pointing out to previous similar cases, (Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U. S. 398, 400, and 2006) it was proved that officers, without a warrant, can seek the access to a house if they have “an objectively reasonable basis for believing that an occupant is…imminently threatened with (serious injury).” The officers justified their action by giving reasons that Mrs. Huff did not answer their calls and the door, she was not concerned about the investigation of her son, and the fact that she ran back to the house after being asked about the guns. Judge Rawlinson made his judgment according to cases that purposely dealt with the situation where officer safety alarm provoked the entry and summarized the case that, under the rationale uttered in those cases, an officer could have convincingly assumed that he/she was warranted in making a raised notion that there may be guns in the residence and be at threat. No judgment of this Court established a Fourth Amendment breach on the truth even nearly comparable to those present in this case.
DISSENTING OPINION: (Judge Rawlinson and the Panel). The panel majority’s purpose that petitioners were not permitted to qualified immunity based its facts on a varying district Court’s finding. The panel majority argued their opinion that Mrs. Huff “merely asserted her right to end her conversation with the officers and returned to her home” after telling the officers, she would leave to find her husband. Moreover, Mrs. Huff’s reaction after being asked about the guns was not questionable since there was no lawful commitment to continue her discussion with the police. Separate events did not justify the facts laid by the accused. Therefore, the case was concluded for the entry of judgment in support of petitioners.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CASE: The case found the notion that citizens have to be sheltered from a prior command by the police officers with the exception of peculiar situations. It also brought about the clarification of the Fourth Amendment to help in forthcoming similar cases.