Beal v. Beller

Kenosha Detective Strelow received an anonymous tip that an African-American man in a yellow shirt was selling heroin on a specific corner. Without corroborating the tip, Strelow and Detective Beller, drove to that intersection. They saw Beal, who matched the description, talking to a woman in a driveway (his aunt). They approached and asked Beal to identify himself. He did so without objection. Beller then grabbed Beal’s left wrist and Strelow frisked him. Beal’s right hand had been in his pocket. Strelow asked him to remove his hand. Beal immediately complied. Strelow felt keys and what he described as a soft bulge that felt like tissue. It was immediately apparent that neither item was a weapon. Strelow emptied Beal’s pocket, removed keys, tissues, a photo ID, and letters. He examined the keychain’s attached flashlight, which he discovered had been hollowed out and contained four small baggies with a substance Strelow believed was heroin. Beal had no money. Beal was charged with possession of heroin. A Wisconsin state court suppressed the evidence and dismissed all charges. Beal filed suit against the detectives under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted defendants summary judgment, stating that “no reasonable jury could find that plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.” The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the court assumed disputed facts in finding the detectives’ actions permissible under Terry v. Ohio. View "Beal v. Beller" on Justia Law