Benchslaps, Constitutional Law, Disability Law, Police

Cops’ Fear Of Handcuffed Paraplegic Turns Out To Be Unreasonable

There’s no love lost between cops and guys in wheelchairs.

You know things are not going well for the police when a judge uses the citation “U.S. Const. amend. IV.” Not a case interpreting the Fourth Amendment, not a scholarly analysis of search and seizure law, just a straight-up shout-out to the plain text of the constitutional prohibition. It kind of tells you where the judge is going.

Today’s installment of “Why Can’t You Just Get A Warrant” comes out of the Montgomery County courthouse near Dayton, Ohio. According to the judge’s order granting a suppression motion, the police subdued a wheelchair-bound paraplegic and searched his home. And by “subdued,” I of course mean: tackled a man in a wheelchair, handcuffed him, then pretended to be worried about the man’s grabbable area.

Fun times…

The facts of the case make the cops look overaggressive even before they are violative. A wife calls in a domestic disturbance and complains that her wheelchair-bound husband is threatening her with a weapon. The police, who had been to the house before and knew the man was paraplegic, show up and go all “COPS” on the dude:


Here’s where I don’t understand why some police officers have trouble acting like humans: they’ve just tackled a paraplegic. At that point they can (a) continue with their arrest or (b) further violate his rights by searching for the gun, and they chose (b). They conducted a search of his house and found guns in his trashcan.

Were they thinking they needed to find the guns in order to justify tackling him in the first place? Were they so pissed off about being called out to the house again that they wanted to find a real good way of punishing him? Again, they just tackled and handcuffed a paraplegic. I think the normal human response would be to calm down and take stock of your actions, not to keep rolling through the man’s premises.

In any event, the Court was not impressed:

Thank you. Thank you for stating the obvious. This is not a law school hypothetical, this is a real live paraplegic with real live handcuffs who was not going to make it to his real live gun hidden away in his trashcan. Which leads us to the triumphant conclusion of Judge Steven Dankof:


Yes. This. So this.

It’s called “a warrant,” police officers, and it’s actually not all that hard to obtain. Go get one before rummaging through the houses of handcuffed paraplegics in your tackle-able area.

You can read the short, sweet opinion on the next page.

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