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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    Default What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    My question involves police conduct in the State of: California

    Here is my situation.

    First the background:
    * My ex-husband's brother is a Sheriff's Deputy in the same county that I live in, which is very large- 1,800 square miles.
    * I live in a small middle-upper class, close-knit subdivision, and have not heard of a single crime occurring in our neighborhood in the three years that we have lived here.
    * I have absolutely no criminal history- just a few minor traffic violations (cell phone use, registration fix-it ticket).
    * I have absolutely no history of drug or alcohol use whatsoever (I am a very strongly religious Christian and I do not believe in using those substances).
    * I am a practicing Registered Nurse at a respectable facility in the community.
    * My ex-husband and I have been divorced for several years. We have both been remarried to other people for multiple years. However, he has chosen to be involved very minimally with our children until recently, presumablly because his poor behavioral choices have required that he have supervised visitation at a professional facility.

    Now on to the present:
    My ex-husband and I began a custody battle several months ago when he decided he wanted unsupervised visitation.

    Since then, his deputy sheriff brother frequently parks a few houses down on my street, watching our comings and goings. He also parks on the street of my children's school, which is 20 minutes away on a tiny street on the outskirts of a tiny country town. The only thing on that particular street (or in close proximity to that freeway exit) is two elementary schools. He parks there at about the time that my children get out of school, and watches us.

    I have complained about this harassment in my previous family law court documents. I have also complained to the Fire Chief, who suggested I report it to the internal affairs department. I have held off, expecting it to stop at some point.

    Certainly given the enormity of our community and the lack of crime in my neighborhood, he does not need to be hanging out in his car on my street, a few houses down from my house, or on the kids' school street (which is virtually deserted- since there are not even any houses there, the elementary children can not even walk home). It has not stopped. I don't know if this is an intimidation tactic or why he gets off on doing this, but it is obnoxious and it scares my children.

    Today, he was there yet again. I am sick of it and I wanted evidence. So that I could not be pulled over for a cell phone violation, I pulled over next to him and got out. I walked up to him and said "Stop harassing me" and then took a picture, and informed him that I now have evidence of his harassment.

    I got back in my car and started to pull away. He jumped out of his car, put his hands on my car, and said "You're not going anywhere. You are not free to leave." He then ordered me out of my car. My daughters started screaming and saying "I'm scared!". I put my car in park and said "I am not getting out of my car, but I am calling 911." I promptly did so, and explained the situation. They transferred me to the Sheriff Department and then to the Sergeant's voicemail.

    He stood outside my window ordering me out of the car, then told me I could not leave, and walked in front of my car and leaned on the hood. I heard him call for "back up" (against me and my scary camera, I guess). A highway patrol officer pulled up and started chatting with him. Because I had rolled up my window, I couldn't hear them but they were both laughing and making "crazy" motions with their fingers by their ears. Soon 3 more Sheriff cars pulled up.

    Finally the Sergeant pulled up. I opened my door, he came up, and I explained the situation to him. He defended my ex-brother-in-law, saying "well we all have favorite places to do our paperwork because we do our paperwork in our cars". I asked him to advise his deputy that of the THOUSANDS of streets in this county, perhaps MY street and the street of MY children's school ought not be his "favorite places".

    He told me that either A) He can talk to his deputy and get HIS side of the story, and then get back to me, or B) I can file a formal complaint, which will require me coming down to the station.

    Because I was then late for an appointment (this whole experience took about 22 minutes), I told him that I would need to think about it and get back to him. He then told me I was free to go, and I left.

    My family law attorney advised me to file a formal complaint. He will also be writing letters so that it is documented. He said that once he put his hands on my car and told me I couldn't leave, he believes that it became an "illegal stop" or "unlawful detention". I've been looking on the internet and cannot find a good definition of either of these terms. Is this true?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,783

    Default Re: What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    , he believes that it became an "illegal stop" or "unlawful detention"
    he needs reasonable suspicion to be able to detain you. He obviously detained you. It appears he had no legal justification to do so so he committed an unlawful detention.

    Obviously, if he can articulate reasonable suspicion there was a crime being committed, he acted legally.

    there are millions of pages of information on the terms. Along with unlawful detention, search for reasonable suspicion as well.


    If a couple posters by the name of BOR or CDWJava stop by, they are quite informed this type of situation and could add a lot.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    Quote Quoting Kelly123
    View Post
    Since then, his deputy sheriff brother frequently parks a few houses down on my street, watching our comings and goings. He also parks on the street of my children's school, which is 20 minutes away on a tiny street on the outskirts of a tiny country town. The only thing on that particular street (or in close proximity to that freeway exit) is two elementary schools. He parks there at about the time that my children get out of school, and watches us.
    Have you ever brought this to the attention of the sheriff's office where he works? Unless he happens to be assigned to that area, I would find that unnerving or at least highly suspect.

    I have complained about this harassment in my previous family law court documents. I have also complained to the Fire Chief, who suggested I report it to the internal affairs department. I have held off, expecting it to stop at some point.
    Why did you complain to the FIRE chief? He has about as much say over the deputy's actions as a local landscaper.

    Finally the Sergeant pulled up. I opened my door, he came up, and I explained the situation to him. He defended my ex-brother-in-law, saying "well we all have favorite places to do our paperwork because we do our paperwork in our cars". I asked him to advise his deputy that of the THOUSANDS of streets in this county, perhaps MY street and the street of MY children's school ought not be his "favorite places".
    Quiet places are a good place to do paperwork. Absent mind-reading capabilities, there would be no way to dispute the deputy's claim about his reason to be in the area. I would be highly suspect and suggest the deputy do his paperwork elsewhere just to seem above suspicion in the matter, but the sergeant likely had no real authority to order the deputy to avoid the area.

    He told me that either A) He can talk to his deputy and get HIS side of the story, and then get back to me, or B) I can file a formal complaint, which will require me coming down to the station.
    Aside from REQUIRING you to go to the agency to make a "formal" complaint, the sergeant had it pretty much right. The sergeant COULD have taken your complaint there in the field, though the written complaints are likely only available at the office, and without a written document, the complaint would not likely go very far.

    My family law attorney advised me to file a formal complaint.
    That sounds about right. The deputy's action are suspicious, though not damning. But, it would be enough for me as a supervisor to encourage my officer to stay out of those areas absent a call or some other legitimate and articulable reason to be there.

    Plus, I would be concerned with the detention. What is the reasonable suspicion to justify the detention? I don't see what possible criminal activity may have been afoot to support such a thing, but the officer might be able to articulate something. Understand that the articulable, reasonable suspicion necessary for a detention is a low threshold to reach and does not require a crime, only the possibility that crime is "afoot." So, if he could articulate even a hint of some possible criminal activity, he might be able to justify it.

    But, since there was no crime alleged and likely no damages as a result of the detention, legal recourse may be limited.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    2

    Default Re: What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    Thanks to you both. To address your questions:

    Have you ever brought this to the attention of the sheriff's office where he works? Unless he happens to be assigned to that area, I would find that unnerving or at least highly suspect.
    No I have not, but my attorney will be writing a letter asap to his superiors.


    Why did you complain to the FIRE chief? He has about as much say over the deputy's actions as a local landscaper.
    Because it was following another incident involving the fire department, in which the Fire Chief gave me some information that the ex-bil was quite possibly acting dishonestly/illegally to cover his butt and hide the fact that he was on our street to harrass me.

    Quiet places are a good place to do paperwork. Absent mind-reading capabilities, there would be no way to dispute the deputy's claim about his reason to be in the area. I would be highly suspect and suggest the deputy do his paperwork elsewhere just to seem above suspicion in the matter, but the sergeant likely had no real authority to order the deputy to avoid the area.
    I spoke to the district attorney who said that it certainly appears highly suspicious and that the department doesn't look kindly on these issues. He encouraged me to have my attorney write a letter and that it's likely that he would be assigned to another beat, or at least be watched closely (which would hopefully be enough to prevent any further incidents).


    Aside from REQUIRING you to go to the agency to make a "formal" complaint, the sergeant had it pretty much right. The sergeant COULD have taken your complaint there in the field, though the written complaints are likely only available at the office, and without a written document, the complaint would not likely go very far.
    I think I will still do so. I hope that there is not a time limit on these things.


    That sounds about right. The deputy's action are suspicious, though not damning. But, it would be enough for me as a supervisor to encourage my officer to stay out of those areas absent a call or some other legitimate and articulable reason to be there.
    I am glad to hear that.

    Plus, I would be concerned with the detention. What is the reasonable suspicion to justify the detention? I don't see what possible criminal activity may have been afoot to support such a thing, but the officer might be able to articulate something. Understand that the articulable, reasonable suspicion necessary for a detention is a low threshold to reach and does not require a crime, only the possibility that crime is "afoot." So, if he could articulate even a hint of some possible criminal activity, he might be able to justify it.
    But, since there was no crime alleged and likely no damages as a result of the detention, legal recourse may be limited.
    He didn't articulate anything at the time. All I want is for it to stop. That's enough recourse for me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    California
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    Default Re: What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    There is not any real time limit on your ability to complain. However, if significant time has since passed and no further incidents have occurred, the matter may be seen as having resolved itself.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  6. #6
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    Mar 2011
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    California
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    540

    Default Re: What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
    My family law attorney advised me to file a formal complaint.
    That sounds about right.
    Filing a formal complaint sounds useless to me.

    Attorneys specialize. Family law attorneys specialize in family law. I think that consulting with an attorney specializing in police misconduct would be far more pertinent. All I've read from them say you should not file a formal complaint if you seriously want effective action taken in response to police misconduct.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    Quote Quoting DavidForthoffer
    View Post
    Filing a formal complaint sounds useless to me.
    Sorry you think so.

    Often that is a prerequisite prior to a lawsuit ... tactically, it can be a good idea prior to a civil suit because it creates a record that the plaintiff might be able to use.

    Even if not for a lawsuit, think of it from a management perspective. if you have a problem employee, how do you find out about it if no one tells you? Most issues are matters of training and not a case of some rogue officer. even veteran officers sometimes operate under misunderstandings of the law or procedure. Unless people tell the agency about problems they have, the agency cannot be reasonably expected to be held accountable for their people.

    Most lawsuits involving the actions of individual officers seem to include personnel complaints prompted by the attorney.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    California
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    540

    Default Re: What Constitutes an "Illegal Stop" or "Unlawful Detention"

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
    Often (filing a formal complaint) is a prerequisite prior to a lawsuit
    I agree that pursuing administrative and local remedies is a prerequisite for a 42 USC 1983 lawsuit. Nevertheless, all the advice I've read from attorneys is that it is better to contact the attorney before filing a formal complaint.
    think of it from a management perspective. if you have a problem employee, how do you find out about it if no one tells you?
    Having an attorney is certainly one way of finding out.

    I suggest that some police departments follow up on formal complaints in a responsible, accountable manner.
    I also suggest that some other police departments abuse the formal complaint process in a manner to hide wrongdoing.

    P.S. I'd like to add that I have read hundreds of posts by you and other senior members of this forum, and I completely agree with the vast majority of your posts. Please do not take my disagreement with very few posts as casting aspersions on you.

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