It’s a good bet that Army reservist Matthew Corrigan wasn’t asking himself, ” Will I go to jail?” when he called what he thought was a helpline for service members.
In the early morning hours of February 2, 2010, Corrigan called an emotional support helpline for veterans. The soldier hadn’t slept in several days and was dealing with bouts of severe depression. Though he thought he had called an Army helpline, he actually was calling the National Suicide Hotline.
What ensued was a short conversation where Corrigan answered questions about his depression and present feelings. At no time did the soldier state suicidal or homicidal intentions, but as part of the call the hotline operator asked about guns in the home. When the conversation ended, Corrigan took some prescribed medication and went to bed.
At 4 a.m., Corrigan awoke to the sound of police using a bullhorn calling his name. When Corrigan stepped outside, he was immediately put in handcuffs and thrown in the back of a police vehicle. Shortly thereafter an unidentified officer demanded Corrigan’s house keys. According to Corrigan, he flatly refused to let the police in his apartment, to which the officer responded, “I don’t have time to play this constitutional (*expletive deleted).” The officer then ordered his team to enter the home by force without a warrant or Corrigan’s permission.
Corrigan says the home was vandalized, his guns taken and even his dog taken into custody. Once in police custody, medical examiners assessed whether Corrigan was a suicide threat. After his release, the authorities arrested Corrigan again, and he was put in jail for an additional 16 days.
Corrigan now seeks $500,000 in damages for constitutional violations stemming from this incident.
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that the public shall be free from unreasonable search and seizure. In this case, that right was trampled on when the police disregarded Corrigan’s plea not to enter his property and did so without a lawful warrant. We rely on the police and other authorities to protect our civil liberties and uphold the rule of law, but unfortunately sometimes that doesn’t happen. No matter the situation or circumstance, it is important to remember that in Miami, Florida, where we practice law, and no matter where you live, everyone has rights against unreasonable search and seizure conducted by the police.