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Wilson v. Layne
United States Supreme Court
526 U.S. 603 (1999)
Dominic Wilson, the son of Charles and Geraldine Wilson (the Wilsons) (plaintiffs), was a wanted felon. Police officers (defendants) obtained a warrant to arrest Dominic, but the officers mistakenly included the address that belonged to Dominic’s parents. The police officers invited a media reporter and photographer to attend the early morning search, although these representatives were not named in the arrest warrant. The Wilsons were wearing undergarments during the warrant’s execution. Charles was agitated that plainclothes officers were in his living room, and the officers, believing Charles was Dominic, restrained Charles onto the ground. Dominic was not found in the house. Although the media did not assist with the execution of the arrest warrant, several photos were taken, which were never published. The Wilsons sued the officers in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the presence of media during the search violated the Fourth Amendment. Media ride-alongs were common practice and permitted by the police department’s policy. No judicial opinions prohibited the practice within private homes. However, one case decided five weeks before the police officers searched the Wilsons’ home refused to provide qualified immunity to police officers on summary judgment after a private security guard helped execute a warrant without being named within the warrant. In the Wilsons’ suit, the district court denied the officers’ qualified-immunity defense. The court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)
Concurrence/Dissent (Stevens, J.)
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