U.S. District Court Rules: Leave Open-Carriers Alone – Fourth Amendment Applies
By Anthony Bouchard
On September 8, 2009, United States District Court for New Mexico, Judge Bruce D. Black entered a summary judgment in a civil case against six police officers of Alamogordo NM.
In a nutshell: Mathew St. John paid and went into the movie theater to enjoy a movie and he happened to be wearing his holstered firearm in plain view, reacting to a call from the manager of the theater, the police physically removed him from the theater, disarmed him, searched him and removed from his person his identification.
The police allowed Mr. St. John to re-enter the theater as long as he left his firearm in his vehicle as he was not under arrest.
It’s legal to carry your firearm in plain-view without a permit in New Mexico as well as twenty five other state including Wyoming but what is important here is this case was won in U.S. District Ten which includes Wyoming.
Judge Black concluded that as a matter of law the police officers violated Mr. St. John’s Constitutional Fourth Amendment Rights because they physically seized and disarmed him.
Mr. St John’s attorney was happy with the ruling and is now proceeding to the jury trial requesting damages. He stated: “Great to see the Court carefully consider the issues presented by both sides and conclude that the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from detaining and searching individuals solely for exercising their rights to possess a firearm as guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions.”
Judge Black denied the officers “qualified immunity” a defense that allows government officials acting in good faith to avoid any liability for violating law that isn’t clearly established.
From the courts decision: “relying on well-defined Supreme Court precedent, the Tenth Circuit and its sister courts have consistently held that officers may not seize or search an individual without a specific, legitimate reason. . . . The applicable law was equally clear in this case. Nothing in New Mexico law prohibited Mr. St. John from openly carrying a firearm in the Theater. Accordingly, Mr. St. John’s motion for summary judgment is granted with regard to his Fourth Amendment and New Mexico constitutional claims. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is denied with regard to the same and with regard to qualified immunity.”
This decision is great news for Wyoming and the rest of the country concerning open-carry and constitutional rights in the truest sense, we need to be advocates of holding on to not only the Second Amendment but the Fourth and Fifth as well and this case should solidify this concept.
Food for thought – When considering “newer and better” legislation we need to test it against what we already have and ask will it give-away other protections such as the Fourth Amendment as evidenced in this case.