Imagine the police search a home for evidence of crime. No one is home but the door is unlocked, and the officers look in the kitchen, bedroom, and closets. They find nothing, and then they leave. Assume that the police do not damage any property or make a mess of things inside the home.
Now imagine the homeowner learns of the search. The homeowner believes correctly that the search violated the Fourth Amendment, and he sues the officers for money damages. Imagine five possibilities for why the search violated the Fourth Amendment:
1) The officers knew that they needed a warrant, but they decided to search without one anyway.
2) The officers did not have a warrant, because they mistakenly believed that they did not need one.
3) The officers obtained a valid warrant based on probable cause and particularity, but they searched the wrong house by mistake.
4) The officers obtained a warrant based on probable cause and particularity, and they searched the right house. After the search was executed, however, a review of warrant revealed that it had a typographical error in it. The typographical error rendered the warrant invalid at the time of the execution.
5) The officers obtained the warrant based on probable cause, and they searched the right house. The officers executed the search at 10:30 pm, however, and the warrant states that it must be executed before 10 pm.
Here’s my question. Assume that there is no qualified immunity, and that the officers are liable for whatever damages the homeowner suffered for the search. If you are a juror and you are tasked with estimating the damages, what do you think the damages are for these five scenarios?
These issues comes up on occasion, and as far as I know there is no caselaw on it. If qualified immunity doesn’t apply, the cases generally settle or are not appealed on any legal grounds. So it’s up to each jury to ascertain what the damages might be. I’m curious what readers think they might do if they were jurors and they were asked to monetize the damages in these five cases.
UPDATE: Shortly after posting this, I added a fifth scenario.