AUSTIN, Texas —Police have agreed to favorably settle a Fourth Amendment lawsuit brought by The Rutherford Institute over a warrantless raid, search, and arrest of a Texas homeowner based on unreliable information from an anonymous source.
Rutherford Institute attorneys filed the lawsuit after Gillespie County (Tex.) Sheriff’s Office deputies carried out a warrantless raid on Huntly and Susan Dantzler’s rural home, which allegedly resulted in Huntly Dantzler being seized by police officers, placed in handcuffs, thrown to the ground and subsequently arrested for refusing to consent to the warrantless search of his home. In September 2017, a federal district court rejected efforts by police to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that the officers’ actions as set forth in the lawsuit were based on inaccurate information from an anonymous source and violated the Dantzlers’ clearly-established constitutional rights. Affiliate attorney Jerri Ward of Garlo Ward, P.C., assisted with the Dantzlers’ defense.
“There are those who insist that if you’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, you should submit to police demands to search your person and your home, whether or not those orders are lawful,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “What makes this case so striking is the contrast between American citizens who not only know their rights but are exercising them and government officials—in this case, the police—who are either completely ignorant of what the law requires (namely, a search warrant and probable cause) or who don’t believe the laws of the land, namely the Fourth Amendment, apply to them.”
Huntly and Susan Dantzler, who live in a rural area of Gillespie County, were awoken at 6:35 a.m. on May 3, 2015, by a pounding on their door. Upon opening the door, the Dantzlers encountered two police officers, who demanded to see the Dantzlers’ son. Although the Dantzlers informed the police their son was not at the house, the officers repeatedly demanded to speak with their son. The police officers then informed the Dantzlers that they believed their son was with an unnamed female whose health might be in jeopardy, and the officers wanted to check on the female.
After the Dantzlers told the officers that no female was in their house, the officers demanded to be allowed to search the house so they could determine for themselves whether the Dantzlers’ son and the unnamed female were present. The Dantzlers refused to allow the police to enter and search their home and indicated that they should get a warrant if they wanted to do so. One officer then seized Huntly Dantzler, handcuffed him, pulled him away from the door and threw him to the ground. Alarmed by the treatment of her husband and the inherent coercion, Susan Dantzler allowed one of the officers to enter the house and look around. After searching the house and finding nothing, the officers left. Huntly Dantzler was compelled to seek medical care for deep gashes on wrists left by the handcuffs.
Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute filed suit against the sheriff’s deputies in December 2015, asserting that the officers violated the Dantzlers’ Fourth Amendment rights by relying solely upon an anonymous and malicious report as the basis for searching the Dantzlers’ home.