Multiple David Sosas Ask Supreme Court To Overturn Decision Saying It’s Fine To Arrest ANY David Sosa When Cops Are Seeking A SPECIFIC David Sosa

Handcuffs and FingerprintsNever mind fitting the description, even though that, too, has its own problems. In Texas, it apparently only matters how your name is spelled. If you share a name with a criminal suspect, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has said you have no recourse if you’re wrongly arrested and detained for multiple days.

That horrendous decision is now being appealed to the Supreme Court. Contributing to the cause is the Institute of Justice and a whole bunch of David Sosas. This is from the amicus brief [PDF] the IJ composed in hopes of keeping people with the same name as criminal suspects from having their rights violated.

This case is about the constitutionality of Florida police arresting and detaining David Sosa of Martin County, Florida, on a Texas warrant from 1992 for a man named David Sosa. To be clear, that’s not the David Sosa who chairs the philosophy department at the University of Texas. Nor is it the New York-based songwriter David Sosa. It’s also not the David Sosa who’s a cardiologist in Albuquerque, the one who works at the USDA, the law student at
University of Miami, or the David Sosa who owns a construction company in Winston-Salem.

None of the David Sosas who submitted this brief are wanted in Texas, either. Two are from North Carolina and two from Los Angeles. Two of the amici David Sosas have even been confused for each other before! There are a lot of David Sosas in this country—at least 924, if not more. Only one of them is suspected of selling crack cocaine in Harris County, Texas, back in the 1990s. Yet every David Sosa now faces up to three days in jail without any recourse under § 1983 anytime police in Florida, Georgia, or Alabama run a warrant check.

Ten of the 11 judges on the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Petitioner David Sosa has no legal recourse for police wrongfully arresting him twice based on the same blatant mistake of identity. Seven of those judges went much further and ruled that state officials do not even violate the Constitution if they hold an innocent person in jail for three days simply because that person shares a name with someone else in the country who has an outstanding warrant.

This decision blessed officer inattentiveness. It gives law enforcement a free pass for failing to do the job correctly. It’s clearly the wrong call by the Eleventh and it involves an egregious violation of rights. That’s why the IJ and its many supportive Sosas want the Supreme Court to roll this decision back.

It should have been obvious to both the arresting officers and the court below that police cannot jail an innocent person for three days before they verify his identity.

The Eleventh Circuit cited its own Baker decision in support of this blown call. That case involved a pair of brothers. Leonard McCollan forged a license to pose as his brother Linnie while committing a string of criminal acts. Linnie ended up being arrested for his brother’s crimes, but it took a while to sort this out due to the forged license and the arrest occurring during a three-day holiday weekend. This arrest also happened pre-internet, so verification was a much slower process than it is today.

The Eleventh Circuit looked at all the facts and decided there’s a three-day grace period on rights violations. The IJ (and the affected Sosas) point out how ridiculous it is to consider this a case on point.

By contrast, the Respondents arrested a random David Sosa just because someone else with his name was wanted in another state decades prior. The two Sosas are a different age, height, and weight, and have different social security numbers, tattoos, and states of residence. A warrant that described the wanted Sosa with particularity should have given officers enough information to determine immediately that the Sosa they pulled over was not wanted in Texas. (And if the warrant’s description was not particular enough, then it couldn’t have constitutionally supported the arrest anyway). Whatever the merit of excusing police from their duties over a holiday weekend, the Respondents arrested and detained Sosa during the work week. All the information the Respondents needed was right there at their fingertips—especially since they’d already made the same mistake before!

That’s just the Fourth Amendment violation. Then there’s the Due Process Clause. All of that is tied together by the facts of the case — facts that any reasonable person would understand to be violations of the wrongfully arrested David Sosa’s rights. Unfortunately, the Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court managed to talk itself into excusing these acts because it only deprived Sosa of three days of freedom. That’s unacceptable, says the Institute for Justice.

Any interpretation of the Constitution that concludes the Respondents’ conduct was okay because they only took three days to determine that they imprisoned the wrong person should be discarded. No sound constitutional principle permits the government to violate someone’s fundamental rights for three days but not four. While the duration of an injury can affect the remedy, it does not eliminate the underlying right. That seven judges on the Eleventh Circuit misunderstood such fundamental points confirms the need for this Court to grant certiorari.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will reverse this. After all, its own case law in the Rodriguez decision made it clear it’s not the duration of the rights violation that matters, it’s the rights violation itself. Jailing the wrong person for three days should never be acceptable in the United States. But, as it stands in the Eleventh Circuit, anyone with the same name as a criminal suspect should expect to spend up to three days being wrongfully detained before they can start alleging their rights have been violated.

Multiple David Sosas Ask Supreme Court To Overturn Decision Saying It’s Fine To Arrest ANY David Sosa When Cops Are Seeking A SPECIFIC David Sosa

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