Appelman

Texas Gun Case Calls 4th Amendment Rights into Question

Friday, 19. April 2013

CC image from YoutubeA law-abiding Texas man ran into some trouble for openly displaying a weapon that he had a permit to carry, renewing the debate over unlawful searches and seizures.

It all began when Army Master Sergeant C.J. Grisham accompanied his son for a 10-mile hike.  Grisham’s son needed to do the hike to earn his hiking badge, which was the last badge he needed to earn before becoming an Eagle Scout.  Because there was a possibility of encountering a feral hog or cougar, Grisham strapped a rifle to his backpack.  He also equipped himself with a handgun, and the proper paperwork to show that he could legally possess the firearms.

During their hike, Grisham and his son were stopped by a police officer.  Authorities are well within their rights to request to see a person’s firearm permits, but Grisham said the officer attempted to disarm him before asking for the permits. Grisham details what happened next:

 “‘Where you going with that rifle?’ he asked me. I said, ‘does it matter? Am I breaking any laws?’ [The officer] grabbed the rifle without telling me – but it was attached to me. My immediate reaction as a combat veteran was to grab it back and then take a step back. I asked him what he was doing. So he pulled his gun on me. Then I thought about my son, so I put my hands off my gun and he told me to move over to the car. Luckily my son had the video camera to document the hike for his merit badge. I told him to turn it on.”

You can see video of the 13-minute encounter below.

Many things the officers said during the encounter are troubling, including:

  • Grisham was stopped for “rudely displaying” a weapon
  • “He has a right to disarm you”
  • “I told you I was going to take your gun”
  • “People shoot just as quick here as they do [Iraq or Afghanistan]”
  • “I have a right to disarm you.  I don’t know you.”

Probably the most concerning statement is when the police sergeant says “we are exempt from the law”.

Grisham was eventually arrested for resisting arrest, and the matter will surely be fought in court.

Criminal Defense Attorney Mel Welch comments

In Minnesota, a person may legally carry a firearm as long as they have a permit.  Carrying of a firearm in a public place without a permit for the first time (with no prior “crimes of violence”) is a Gross Misdemeanor crime which is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $3000 fine; conviction of a second violation for this would be a felony – punishable by up to Five (5) Years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

A person who is permitted to carrying a firearm must have that permit on their person, as well as photo-identification, at all times.  If a person is in possession of a firearm, they should inform law enforcement of that possession.  A police officer may lawfully demand to see the permit and your identification, as well as demand a writing sample. The police may also lawfully demand to ask whether the permit-holder currently possesses the firearm.

There are serious concerns here when a civilian, fulfilling their obligations under the law, is seized by officers.  A person has a right under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.  Every time a person comes into contact with law enforcement personnel, issues of constitutional proportions arise which require the government (police) to act reasonably.  Here, the information we observe are of an officer demanding a civilian disarm himself and claim he was “feel[ing] threatened” even as the civilian had both hands occupied while he carried his firearms, and after the civilian has allowed himself to be disarmed and put in restraints.

This incident illustrates numerous issues which arise through the course of prosecuting – and defending against – a crime.  There is the inherent conflict in the relationship between those tasked with duty of upholding the law (not just prosecution but also protecting rights) and those tasked with the obligation of following the law (we, The People).  The arresting officer’s behavior and disingenuous assertions (“I feel threatened”) attest to the latitude police receive in performing their duties and the expectations they enjoy in being trusted and believed by prosecutors and courts, those charged with upholding the law.  Granted, it is difficult to back down from a staked out position, especially when a person is supposed to know the law and is being challenged (and proven wrong) on their understanding of it, but it is very troubling that the sergeant on the scene, tasked with the guidance and management of officers under his care, is making assertions for which he does not have support in the law.  This is NOT Iraq.  This is NOT Afghanistan.  This is America, where specific guarantees against government overreach have been etched in stone and inked in blood.

This also illustrates the importance in seeking legal advice whenever conflicts with police arise.

Related source:  National Review

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Melvin Welch

Criminal Trial Lawyer at Appelman Law Firm
Mel is a criminal trial and appeals attorney, and the newest addition to the Appelman Law Firm team. Before joining the firm, Mel was an Assistant County Attorney for Hennepin County where he prosecuted narcotic, gun, and violent crimes. Prior to being a prosecutor, Mel was a criminal appeals attorney.

3 Responses to “Texas Gun Case Calls 4th Amendment Rights into Question”



  1. steve Says:

    This is nothing new, I’ve been in countries where cops do this kinda stuff…and they aren’t democracy’s!!
    One would know this especially if one is a person of color!
    This what I spent 14 years serving the US in other country’s??????????????



  2. St. Paul Police Officer Arrested for Driving Under the Influence | MN Criminal Defense Blog Says:

    [...] Welch examined a 4th amendment case in Texas where an officer was caught on camera saying, “We are exempt from the law.” In his piece, Mel talks about the inherent conflict in the relationship between those tasked [...]



  3. Police Classifying Public Surveillance Equipment As “Trade Secret” Says:

    […] they would not legitimately be able to obtain through other means without violating a person’s fourth amendment rights against unreasonable searches. If police want to continue on their reckless, and potentially […]

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