September 2nd, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Frein v. Pa. State Police, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 24414 (3rd Cir. August 30, 2022) (Bibas, C.J.) Police may seize potential evidence using a warrant.  They may not keep it forever.  They did that in this case.  After a man assassinated a Pennsylvania state trooper and injured another, the trooper seized his parents’ guns.  The government never used the guns as evidence.  Eight years after the crime, once the son lost his last direct appeal, the officer still refused to return them, even though the officers do not claim that the parents or guns were involved in the crime.  Because the parents were never compensated, they have a Takings claim.  Because they lawfully owned the guns, they have a Second Amendment claim too.  Since they had a real chance to challenge the government’s keeping the guns, they did get procedural due process.  The court found that the case of Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442, 452 (1996) is no bar to the claim.  At most, the guns are potential evidence and the police do not gain title to that.  The warrant does not immunize officials who keep property this long.  Valid warrants immunize officers who stay within their scope but they are not blank checks.  The property must be returned unless it is concluded that it was contraband or subject to forfeiture.  United States v. Chambers, 192 F.3d 374, 376 (3rd Cir. 1999).  The government needs justification to keep the guns this long.  The guns do not fall into any of the categories that permits the government to hold onto them for this many years.  The government has also infringed upon the parents’ rights to keep arms.  The Second Amendment protect a person’s right to keep his own guns for self-defense.  History confirms the parents’ Second Amendment right to get their guns back.  Americans properly feared government seizure.  Congress has passed the Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1866, and the Civil Rights Act of 1871 to protect all citizens’ constitutional rights, including the right to arms.  The Fourth Amendment was designed to secure that right as well.  The narrow historical exceptions did not justify holding onto the guns.  The Takings Clause does apply.  Seizing and holding onto the guns can violate the clause.  Pennsylvania gave the parents due process. The district court was affirmed on this point.  The parents may not seek damages against the state police.  The procedural due process claim therefore is dismissed.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]



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