The SC Supreme Court Says That People Can Talk to Cops Without Being Arrested

The SC Supreme Court Says That People Can Talk to Cops Without Being Arrested

On Wednesday, the S.C. Supreme Court overturned a man’s arrest and conviction. The man had only broken the law by asking the police a few simple questions while standing on his own land.

A ruling from the Supreme Court said that Thomas Charles Felton Jones was tackled, shocked with a Taser, handcuffed, and arrested.

It was written by Associate Justice John Cannon Few, but the judges said, “The facts in this case are appalling.”

The opinion said, “What happened to Jones has left us deeply disturbed.” There are times when police officers need to secure a scene to do their jobs or keep themselves safe.

Jones was only watching and asking questions of the police, which is clear from both the body camera video and the record we have in front of us. “Because both of these actions are protected by the Constitution, they cannot lead to a conviction under this ordinance,” Few wrote.

Jones was found guilty and given a $500 fine and 10 days in jail. Even though it was a constitutional problem, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

The judges had a clear picture of what happened thanks to footage from police body cameras.

“In July 2018, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office deputies Jake Lancaster and Jonathan Cooper pulled over a woman for not using her turn signal.” “The woman pulled her car off to the side of the road in front of Thomas Jones’s house, who she was driving to see,” the opinion said.

“The deputies’ body camera videos make it clear that Jones walked from near his house to the side of the street to watch the stop.” Jones looked at the scene from a distance with a flashlight pointed at the police officers. He then asked Lancaster why he was calling for help.

“Lancaster replied that it was for safety reasons in case anyone else came near the scene.” Jones then asked Lancaster why his guest was being pulled over. Lancaster said it was because she had turned without signaling and rolled through stop signs, according to the opinion.

After that,Lancaster then asked Jones, “Do you need anything, man?” as if the questions were bothering him. Both Jones and his friend said that she was going to spend the night with Jones. The woman and Jones were polite and calm when they talked to the cops. Jones then took a few steps back, away from the woman and the cops. He kept his flashlight on and continued to watch.

“After that, Lancaster asked Jones, ‘Okay, man, do you need to be here?'” Jones said, “Yeah, this is my house.” Lancaster replied, “You can go back over there or you can be arrested for interfering.” He pointed to the house. Take a step back.

“Jones didn’t move.” After two seconds, Lancaster said, “Okay, turn around,” and he walked over to Jones. Jones was quickly surrounded by both officers, who tackled him, tased him, handcuffed him, and then arrested him. It was during the fight that Jones passed out.

It is against the law for anyone, including Jones, to assault, battery, resist, hinder, impede, or interfere with a police officer in the lawful performance of his or her duty, or to help or abet any such act. This is part of the county ordinance that was used to arrest Jones.

The justices said they would not overturn the county law.

But they made it clear that Jones was on his own land and was only questioning the deputies. He wouldn’t move from where he was standing on his own land during the whole conversation when asked to. After being tased, he was quickly and violently taken. Because of these facts, his judgment cannot stand.

Sheriff Hobart Lewis of Greenville County said, “While I will not comment on actions that occurred before I became Sheriff, I can say that under my leadership, deputies enforce and uphold the law in a way that is fair and correct.” Anything else is taken care of in the same way. Even though I didn’t work on this case, I respect the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Lewis also said that Lancaster quit the department in 2019 and that Cooper is still working there.

Staff attorneys who were working on the case said they were not shocked by the Supreme Court’s ruling. In the 1970 case Town of Honea Path v. Flynn, the S.C. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man who was taken by the police chief because the chief didn’t like what the man was saying, according to the court.

Andre Nguyen, Jacob Goldstein, and Chris Shipman, who is now a private lawyer, were assistant public defenders who worked on the appeal.

“To give police officers or other officers actively performing their duties the power to arrest and prosecute people they believe have said inappropriate things on the charge of interference would, we think, lead to gross abuses of discretion and put unfair penalties and burdens on the people,” the high court said in that case.

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