Can Police Arrest you for legal open carry?

A Federal Court of Appeals just (on May 13) came out with a decision holding that a law enforcement office can be held liable for illegally stopping and arresting a private citizen who is doing nothing wrong.

See the Huffington Post Article here.

Here’s the actual court opinion.

In this case, a Mr. Shawn Northrup sued the two officers involved in arresting him for legally open carrying a gun.

The Court made the right decision in holding that the first officer who arrived on the scene and arrested the Northrup could be held liable for illegally detaining and arresting him.
The Court threw out the claim against the officer who showed up on the scene after Northrup had already been arrested and was in cuffs. The Court relied on a doctrine of law that says and officer is permitted to rely on the information given to him by other officers. Thus, Ray, the second officer, could not be held liable for his involvement in the illegal arrest because he was entitled by law to believe that his fellow officer, Bright, was acting properly.

Missouri has a state-wide open carry law that forbids cities or ordinance-making municipalities from banning open carry. Most states allow local governments to regulate open carry. Not Missouri.

Missouri state case-law describes qualified immunity very similarly to the way the Federal 6th Circuit. In a 2012 case, France v. Hunter, which can you find here “A Government official’s conduct violates clearly established law when, at the time of the challenged conduct, the contours of a right are sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right.” (quoting a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court Case). Basically, an officer has some wiggle room when dealing with “an open legal question. When properly applied, it protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” (France quoting Ashcroft).

Missouri open carry law is pretty clear. Read up on it here and here.

Hopefully, Missouri courts would be sensible enough in a situation like this to reach the same decision as the Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Posted in Constitutional Law, criminal defense, criminal law, Liberty
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