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Civil Rights — unlawful detention

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Civil Rights — unlawful detention

Police officers called to investigate a possible elder abuse incident did not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of a woman by first not allowing her to leave during the investigation, and then ordering her to leave.

“Police often are summoned to a home because of a domestic altercation. And they may tell the quarreling couple not to leave while they try to ascertain the gravity of the quarrel. Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, 542 U.S. 177, 180–82 (2004); United States v. LaFrance, supra, 879 F.2d at 6–8. Detention in one’s residence or office—in this case detention where one would be desperate to remain were there no police present—should not be automatically equated to being jailed, or hauled off in a paddy wagon. Better to be questioned for a time in one’s home or other preferred location, and perhaps cleared of suspicion, than taken to the police station. Cf. Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, supra, 542 U.S. at 186. Hamilton was in her employer’s home; her friend Davy was nearby; she was not questioned at length; she was not handcuffed; the police displayed puzzlement rather than antagonism; the visit did not culminate in an arrest and damaging admissions, as in such cases as Orozco v. Texas, 394 U.S. 324, 326–27 (1969), and Sprosty v. Buchler, 79 F.3d 635, 642–43 (7th Cir. 1996), or lead to any criminal or civil proceeding against her. She seeks no damages for psychological distress, invasion of privacy, or damage to property— the typical grounds for relief in a Fourth Amendment case. Her only articulated theory of injury is that the police prevented her from taking and cashing the $10,000 check and thwarted (we’re not sure how) her continued employment by Lorincz (for he still had a few months to live) and her receiving from him a power of attorney over his affairs. These are not damages of the kind sought in Fourth Amendment cases.”


12-3174 Hamilton v. Village of Oak Lawn

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Manning, J., Posner, J.

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