Crazy False Arrest Gets Cop Suspended: Understanding Fourth Amendment Rights, Police Vehicles, and Misconduct Complaints

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In this article, we will be discussing a shocking incident involving a false arrest that led to a police officer’s suspension. The incident took place in Utica, Michigan, and was captured on dashcam footage by first amendment auditor Steve Jones. Jones, accompanied by a friend, was driving when another motorist motioned for them to pull over. Little did they know that this encounter would soon escalate into an unnecessary arrest. In this article, we will delve into the details of the incident, discussing relevant legal concepts such as the Fourth Amendment, police interactions with parked vehicles, and the filing of misconduct complaints against law enforcement officers.

False Arrest: Challenging Police Authority

Upon being informed by the other driver that they were being videotaped, the motorist decided to call the police, claiming that the auditors were threatening him. Sergeant Greg Murabito of the Utica Police Department responded to the call in an unmarked vehicle. However, the auditors argued that they could not have been pulled over as they were already parked and had not committed any traffic violations. This brings us to the question of whether police officers can detain individuals in parked vehicles without violating their Fourth Amendment rights.

Understanding the Fourth Amendment and Traffic Stops

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. While traffic stops are generally considered seizures under the Fourth Amendment, the situation becomes more complex when it comes to interactions with parked vehicles. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that officers approaching parked vehicles may fall under two categories: consensual encounters or Fourth Amendment seizures. The determination depends on various factors, including whether a reasonable person would feel free to terminate the encounter. In the case of the auditors, it is likely that Sergeant Murabito’s behavior would be deemed a seizure by a court due to his coercive conduct.

Police Vehicles and Misuse of Emergency Lights

Sergeant Murabito’s unmarked vehicle, equipped with red and blue flashing lights, was a subject of contention during the incident. The auditors argued that his use of emergency lights in a personal vehicle was potentially illegal. Michigan law explicitly states that only publicly owned police vehicles can be equipped with flashing lights, visible under normal conditions, from a distance of 500 feet. If Sergeant Murabito’s vehicle did not meet these criteria, it would constitute a violation of the law.

First Amendment Rights: Filming Police Interactions

During the encounter, one of the auditors approached Sergeant Murabito’s vehicle to film inside the open door. The officer ordered the auditor to stand back and proceeded to shove him away. It is crucial to understand that citizens have First Amendment rights to film police officers performing their duties in public spaces. The courts have consistently held that filming in public, including the actions of law enforcement officers, is protected by the First Amendment. In this case, Sergeant Murabito’s use of force in shoving the auditor away could be considered an unreasonable and unconstitutional instance of excessive force.

Filing Misconduct Complaints: Citizen Rights and Police Best Practices

Following the incident, the auditors attempted to file complaints against the officers involved at the Utica Police Department. However, to their dismay, the officers refused to accept their complaints, demanding that they return the following day. This raises concerns about the department’s policies and procedures regarding the filing of misconduct complaints. Best practices in building trust between the police and the community emphasize the importance of making citizens comfortable reporting any complaints. The dearborn michigan police department, for example, has a bias-free policy that prohibits delaying or discouraging citizens from making complaints. Therefore, the actions of the Utica officers in refusing to accept the complaints do not align with established best practices.


The false arrest incident involving first amendment auditor Steve Jones in Utica, Michigan, highlights important issues surrounding Fourth Amendment rights, police interactions with parked vehicles, and filing misconduct complaints against law enforcement officers. Understanding these concepts is crucial for citizens to assert their rights and hold law enforcement accountable. Moving forward, it is essential for police departments to adhere to best practices and ensure that citizens are comfortable and confident in their ability to file complaints when necessary. By fostering transparency and accountability, we can work towards a more just and balanced system of law enforcement.

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