He fought the law, and … he won; City of Prescott settles in 4th Amendment suit

Scott Orr|TheDailyCourier

Mike Palmer is a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution, so when he felt his Fourth Amendment rights were violated, he took the Prescott police to court and won a settlement from the city.

The Fourth Amendment is the one that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires a warrant, supported by probable cause, signed by a judge before law enforcement officers can search. It has also been held to extend to protect individuals from being searched or answering questions when an officer does not have probable cause to do so.

Palmer filed a complaint after a Prescott police officer, Casey Cook, came to a house where Palmer was visiting in January 2009, and began asking him questions. Palmer claims Cook did this because Cook is acquainted with a person who was trying to serve Palmer with a court document and wanted to help by alerting the process server to Palmer’s whereabouts.

Cook was not dispatched to the house, which was outside the Prescott city limits. He’d received a personal phone call and went to the house on his own, records show.

The officer asked for Palmer, who came to the door. The conversation, which Palmer recorded, went like this:

COOK: Will you please step outside?

PALMER: Am I under arrest?


PALMER: Okay, no.

COOK: No? Do you have ID on you?

PALMER: No, I do not.

COOK; By law, you have to be able to provide me with ID.

PALMER: I don’t believe that’s correct.

COOK: It is, actually.

PALMER: Okay, if you want to arrest me for that, it’s fine.

Cook did not arrest Palmer, but instead insisted on getting information from Palmer that he felt he did not need to divulge, such as his full name, address, birth date and Social Security number.

At this point, Palmer tried to close the door, but Cook stopped it with his foot.

COOK: You can’t do that. You’re being detained.

Palmer asked Cook what his probable cause for detaining him was.

The officer said he needed to find out who Palmer was, but Palmer called this a “pretext, because he came to the door knowing my name.”

Officer Cook called for his supervisor, Sgt. Chad Slocum.

Meanwhile, the conversation continued:

PALMER: You’re investigating something? Is it a crime you’re investigating?

COOK: Yes, sir.

PALMER: Is it a felony crime?

COOK: I’m not sure.

Palmer asked his friend to look up the Arizona law on the Internet and print it, which he did. He acquiesced and gave Cook his name, seeing that state law did, in fact, require him to state his name.

Cook then asked for his date of birth as well. Again, Palmer refused, citing the same state law, A.R.S. 13-2412.

A.R.S. 13-2412:

“A person detained under this section shall state the person’s true full name, but shall not be compelled to answer any other inquiry of a peace officer.”

Slocum arrived and said they were going to arrest Palmer.

“Since it was a Friday afternoon, and I knew I’d likely have to sit in jail for the weekend” if he continued to refuse, he gave them the information they wanted.

The two cops left without arresting Palmer.

Palmer filed a lawsuit, naming the City of Prescott, the police chief, several officers and others as defendants, alleging that his rights were violated.

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