While the Supreme Court did find that Sioux Falls officers’ warrantless search of a woman’s apartment was justified, they felt a jury may be inclined to believe they used excessive force to detain her.
The South Dakota Supreme Court will allow a Sioux Falls woman to continue her lawsuit against the city’s police department.
According to The Associated Press, Nichole Boggs first filed her complaint in 2016. Lodged in the Second Circuit Court, Boggs said she suffered injuries after two police officers responded to a call at her apartment.
When officers arrived on-scene, they found a man outside Boggs’ apartment. They quickly ascertained that the man was Boggs’s adult son, and that he had been hurt inside his mother’s home.
However, Boggs refused to let law enforcement enter her apartment.
When another of Boggs’ sons came outside, also bearing injuries, officers decided to breach the apartment without a warrant and without Boggs’s consent.
Boggs, says The Argus Leader, was outside her apartment, carrying a stack of papers.
As officers began moving towards her apartment, Boggs followed. Once inside, an officer grabbed Boggs’ left arm, while another officer tried to grab her right arm.
However, the officer reaching for Boggs’s right arm tripped and fell to the ground.
In response, his colleague threw Boggs to the ground in such a way that “her head and face [struck] the entryway floor.”
The incident, says Boggs’s lawsuit, caused a fracture in her left arm and a joint separation in her right shoulder.
Boggs, adds the Leader, was taken away by ambulance and later charged with obstructing an officer and resisting an arrest.
Boggs was acquitted of the charges in a jury trial.
In its recently released opinion, the South Dakota Supreme Court found that Sioux Falls Police reacted appropriately, insofar as they determined that the circumstances warranted a rapid reaction. While the justices said the officers would not have needed a warrant to enter Boggs’s home, they did not buy the defense’s argument that responding officers should be afforded qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity, as LegalReader.com has reported before, is a legal doctrine which broadly protects state and local officials—including police officers—from civil litigation, except in cases where an official (or officials) violated an individual’s rights.
Consequently, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision to summarily dismiss Boggs’s lawsuit on grounds that the officers are protected by qualified immunity.
However, the justices did say that the Second Circuit Court should have found the search of Boggs’s apartment legal.
While the panel did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit, it note that a jury may find that—given the circumstances—Sioux Falls officers used excessive force in their detainment of Boggs.
The case will now head back to the Second Circuit Court for further consideration.
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