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LU Ref# CAI00029
November 20, 2022
Author Ref. No: Vol. 27 No. 11
LU Ref# CAI00029
November 20, 2022
Author Ref. No:   Vol. 27 No. 11

Robert Phillips
Deputy District Attorney (Retired)

“At my age, rolling out of bed in the morning is the easy part. Getting up off the floor is a whole ‘nother story.”
Using a roadblock to stop a fleeing suspect is a Fourth Amendment seizure of the person
COURT CASE REFERENCE: Seidner v. De Vries (9th Cir. June 30, 2022) 39 F.4th 591

A roadblock used to stop a fleeing motorist (or bicyclist) constitutes a use of force and a Fourth Amendment seizure.  Depending upon an evaluation of the totality of the circumstances, using a roadblock in such a manner may or may not involve an excessive use of force and a Fourth Amendment violation.
Preston Seidner was riding his bicycle on a well-lit Arizona residential street (they don’t say what city) at just before midnight in February, 2020.  Seidner’s bike didn’t have a front light; a violation of Arizona law (Revised Statute § 28-816(A)).  Patrol Officer Jonathan de Vries, observing this violation, pulled ahead of Seidner to confirm that there was no headlight.  The officer then stopped ahead of Seidner and activated his marked patrol vehicle’s overhead lights.  As the officer started to get out of his car expecting to contact the bike’s rider, Seidner ignored him and went right on by.  Officer de Vries jumped back into his patrol car and initiated a 15-mph pursuit as Seidner put the pedal to the metal (so to speak), and continued to flee.  Officer de Vries eventually accelerated ahead of Seidner and turned his patrol car at an angle across the street into Seidner’s path, and stopped.  Seconds later, as Officer de Vries started to open his door, Seidner crashed into the side of the patrol car.  As Seidner laid on the ground moaning from his injuries (a dislocated wrist and a sprained forearm), and having hit his head and chest in the impact, Officer de Vries handcuffed him.  As he did so, the officer asked Seidner why he didn’t stop, to which Seidner could only say that he was “scared.”  He also confessed that his bicycle’s brakes didn’t work. Seidner later sued Officer de Vries in federal court under authority of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Eighth (cruel and unusual punishment) and Fourteenth (due process) Amendment violations.  Construing Seidner’s allegations as more correctly a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim, the federal district (trial) court denied the officer’s motion for summary judgment and ruled that the officer was not entitled to qualified immunity.  Officer de Vries appealed.