3/27/2019Florida Cops Held Liable For Handcuffing Alleged Speeder
Federal appeals court rules Miami, Florida cops liable for abusing delivery driver accused of nothing more than speeding.
Holding a man in overly tight handcuffs for five hours for doing nothing more, allegedly, than driving a few miles per hour over the limit proved to be so over the top that a federal appellate court said earlier this month that the officers should be held personally accountable for their conduct. The Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals gave motorist Ruben A. Sebastian the green light to proceed in his lawsuit against three Miami, Florida, police officers. These officials became enraged after Sebastian refused to let them search his Chevrolet HHR station wagon, and when they searched anyway, they found nothing.
On July 7, 2015, Sebastian had been making a grocery delivery in his clearly marked wagon on Rickenbacker Causeway when Officer Jay Grossman decided to pull him over for allegedly speeding and having dark window tint. Once Sebastian pulled over, Officer Grossman asked to check the front windows, and Sebastian complied. Then the officer asked to search the back seat of the car, and Sebastian asked why. Unsatisfied with the response, he refused the request.
At this point, Lieutenant Javier Ortiz was called in and Sebastian politely declined to consent to the search once again. The lieutenant, who was promoted to captain after the incident, ripped the delivery driver from his seat, pushed his face into the hood of a police car and handcuffed him tightly.
Mocking Sebastian, the officers asked if he was a "YouTube lawyer." They then proceeded to remove the groceries from the back of the car and emptied the bags on the ground. They asked if there were any weapons and Sebastian told them there was, and that he had a legal carry permit because he also works as an armed security guard for the Miami-Dade metrorail system.
The officers decided to charge Sebastian with illegal display of a firearm, even though the gun was safely stored at all times. He was also charged with resisting arrest without violence. While the officers talked among themselves, Sebastian was left inside a hot police car under the scorching summer sun with the windows rolled up. He was then taken to the police department where he remained handcuffed for five hours.
After reviewing the incident, Miami-Dade prosecutors dropped all of the charges, except speeding. Nonetheless, Sebastian could no longer have his security guard job with the arrest on his record. He also suffered permanent nerve damage. Sebastian wants compensation for his losses, particularly since the department had kept Lieutenant Ortiz on the force despite a long string of accusations of misconduct, including 23 incidents involving use of excessive force. The appellate judges saw no excuse for the harsh treatment given to Sebastian.
"Speeding is far from the most serious offense an officer can expect to encounter on patrol," Judge Stanley Marcus wrote. "What's more, there is not the slightest indication in this record that Sebastian posed a threat to officer safety or to anyone else, or was a flight risk at any time during the interaction. All he did was refuse the officers' requests for permission to search his vehicle, and he was nevertheless subjected to force that left him with permanent injuries. This is enough to establish that Sebastian's Fourth Amendment right to be free from the excessive use of force was violated under the exceptional circumstances of this case."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.