Law School Case Brief
Roberts v. Am. Emp'rs Ins. Co. - 221 So. 2d 550 (La. Ct. App. 1969)
La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 933 defines "offense" as including both a felony and a misdemeanor and states that misdemeanor means any offense other than a felony, and includes the violation of an ordinance providing a penal sanction. Thus, the violation of a municipal ordinance providing a criminal sanction is a misdemeanor and a peace officer can make an arrest for such an offense, although not committed in his presence, if he has "reasonable cause" to believe that the person to be arrested has committed the offense.
Plaintiff George Roberts, Jr. went to Haven’s Lounge, where a private Christmas party was being held. The bartender advised plaintiff that it was a private party and refused to serve him a drink. Plaintiff refused to leave, and a disturbance ensued when the members of the club objected to plaintiff’s actions. City Police Officer Horace J. Randolph arrived at Haven’s Lounge, and was told that plaintiff had created a disturbance. The officer found plaintiff at another bar, and brought the latter back to Haven’s Lounge to discuss the complaint which had been made against him. Plaintiff went voluntarily. After discussing the nature of the complaint, the officer placed plaintiff under arrest for violation of the city ordinance against disturbing the peace, notwithstanding lack of an arrest warrant. As they were walking toward the police car, the plaintiff cursed, stated that he was not going to jail, lowered his hands, and grabbed for the officer. The officer fired one shot, injuring the plaintiff. Thereafter, plaintiff sought damages for unlawful arrest and for personal injuries resulting from being shot by the officer. The trial court ruled in favor of the officer, and the plaintiff appealed.
- Was the arrest lawful, notwithstanding the fact that it was made without an arrest warrant?
- Was the arresting officer justified in shooting plaintiff in self-defense?
The state appellate court held that the arrest was lawful. Because the violation of the city ordinance was not a crime, the arrest without a warrant was not in violation of La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:59-60, which then provided that a peace officer could not make an arrest without a warrant for a crime not committed in his presence. The Court further held that the officer's privilege of self-defense was recognized because the officer reasonably believed he was in danger of substantial physical harm and the force he used was not unreasonably excessive in light of the officer's knowledge of the plaintiff’s past record for violence and law violation, his drinking, and his stated determination not to go to jail.
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