Howell v. Smith, No. 16-1988 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Howell, a veteran and school teacher in his early sixties, has had multiple shoulder surgeries, including complete replacement of his right shoulder. He was able to stretch his right arm, to write on a blackboard, and to lift up to six pounds with his right arm. His left shoulder was in better condition. Highland Police Officer Smith received a call from his dispatcher, alerting him to a road rage incident involving the discharge of a firearm. He later came upon a car matching the description and conducted a “high‐risk traffic stop.” Smith placed Howell, the car’s occupant, in handcuffs and detained him until other officers brought the alleged victim to the scene. The victim identified Howell and his vehicle as involved in the road rage incident. The officers, finding no weapon, decided to release Howell. The stop lasted approximately 30 minutes. Howell claims that the officers’ treatment aggravated his preexisting shoulder condition, which required multiple surgeries. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s decision to deny Smith’s qualified immunity claim. Smith’s decision to place Howell, then implicated in a serious crime involving the discharge of a weapon, in handcuffs and to keep him in handcuffs until satisfied that he was not a threat did not violate the Fourth Amendment.