In 2011 Terrance Huff and his friend Jon Seaton were driving back to their home in Ohio after attending a Star Trek convention in Saint Louis. When going through Collinsville, Illinois they were stopped by officer Michael Reichert, allegedly for crossing the centerline. A few months later Huff posted the officer’s dashcam video, which went viral.
Many of the comments suggested that Huff and Seaton should sue Reichert, which they did. Reichert moved for dismissal which the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois denied and Reichert filed an interlocutory appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. See Huff v. Reichert, No. 13-1734, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 4446, 2014 WL 906103 (7th Cir. Mar 10, 2014).
Before I link to the Seventh’s Circuit opinion, let’s look at the traffic stop.
First, the violation is probably BS. First, there is no video of the violation. While it is not required, officer’s who are concerned with documenting evidence will turn on the camera and get the violation (most have a buffer that saves the previous 30-60 seconds). Second, this seems to be a recurring violation used by Reichert.
Second, when the reason for the traffic stop is over, the driver must be free to leave. Here Reichert asked for consent and Huff denied it, saying that he wanted to leave. Reichert told him that he could leave, but that the car could not. Really? On what grounds? Because thus far, Reichert hasn’t shown anything even approaching reasonable suspicion, much less probable cause.
Third, during the open air drug sniff, Reichert repeatedly told his dog to “Show me where it’s at! Find it!”Id., at *4, 2014 WL 906103, *2. Reichert even admitted that this was improper procedure and violated his training. Well, duh! He’s telling the dog to alert, which it conveniently does at the front of the car, out of the camera’s vision. Really? Gee, I would have thought that the scent of drugs would have been strongest at the doors and windows, not at the radiator.
Fourth, why is an arrest of over 10 years age even relevant? Besides that, why even run Huff for his criminal history? It’s just not done on a routine basis. Sure, officers will check the DL and for warrants, that’s easy. It is more difficult to run a CCH. First, it is done separately from a DL/warrants check. Second, you have to have a valid reason to run it, other than it just being a traffic stop. Third, a CCH can take forever to return, and if you do get a hit, you have to run it again to get the details. It just isn’t done on normal traffic stops, but it does explain his comment about the computer running slow.
Fifth, why was Reichert still on the street doing interdiction? A federal judge had already found that his testimony about having probable cause to search a vehicle was not credible. United States v. Zambrana, 402 F. Supp. 2d 953 (S.D. Ill. 2005). OK, I’ll grant you that Collinsville PD fired Reichert in 2006 and the union got his job back. But why doing K9 drug interdiction? Isn’t the State’s Attorney Office required to turn over this type of information on officer credibility to the defense? See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). This seems relevant, especially when you consider that a large part of the reason that Judge Michael Reagan noted that “Reichert thereby engaged in misrepresentation, deceit, and falsification” when he was earlier convicted of a misdemeanor for selling fake Oakley sunglasses. Id., at 958-59. Here it is clear that no one trusts Reichert, from the Federal Court to the state Circuit Court to the State’s Attorney to the U.S. Attorney, Radley Balko, Illinois Traffic Stop of Star Trek Fans Raises Concerns about Drug Searches, Police Dogs, Bad Cops, Huffington Post (Mar. 31, 2012, updated Aug. 7, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/31/drug-search-trekies-stopped-searched-illinois_n_1364087.html.
This is a disaster waiting to happen, at least to the taxpayers of Collinsville. In the meanwhile, the police chief is standing behind Reichert. This may be due to Reichert being the Officer of the Month in 2011. The reason? His good work in drug interdiction.
Of course, we’ll see what the city does next.
The court opinion is here.
- RSRG Law blog: Don’t Worry, Too Much
- Washington Post blog: Set Phasers to Litigate
- Reason blog: K9 Officer Admits Planting Drugs on Random Vehicles
- Res ipsa loquitor blog (Turley): This Could Happen to You