WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia announced today that the District of Columbia has agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Executive Director and co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective. The lawsuit challenged the actions of four Metropolitan Police Department officers who entered her home and arrested her without a warrant.
“I’m glad to be able to move forward with my life following this severely traumatizing incident,” said Hunter. “Trans women of color face systematic barriers and violence across this country, and I hope that by bringing this case, I have helped show others that they have just as much right to be safe and free from police aggression in their own homes as anyone else, and that legal organizations like the ACLU are a valuable resource for our community.”
Hunter was arrested in her home in November 2016 following a dispute between Hunter and her neighbors about the level of noise coming from her apartment as she hosted a gathering for activists and advocates who would be attending the White House Transgender Community Briefing with her the following day. Numerous police officers came to the apartment for what they described as an investigation of “a possible assault,” then entered Hunter’s apartment without a warrant, followed Hunter into her apartment after she retreated, grabbed her by her arm and neck, placed her in handcuffs, dragged her out of her apartment, and held her in custody for hours. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia declined to prosecute Hunter for the alleged assault.
Hunter suffered a pinched nerve in her arm from the tight handcuffs, exacerbated osteoarthritis in her knee, osteoarthritis in her spine, and has undergone continuing physical therapy to regain her full mobility. She also experienced the emotional distress and humiliation of the arrest in front of friends and colleagues.
The lawsuit, filed in February in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, charged that the warrantless home entry and arrest violated the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures as well as D.C. law, which prohibits most warrantless arrests for alleged misdemeanors.
The incident followed a known history of D.C. police entering homes without warrants. In 2013, the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) issued a report documenting that it had received dozens of complaints of officers’ improper entry into private homes without a warrant. The report found that the complaints raised valid concerns regarding constitutional violations and recommended additional guidance and training for officers. Following the release of the report, MPD revised its internal guidelines on search warrants and developed additional training. However, a new OPC report indicates that complaints regarding MPD’s use of searches without consent have risen in 2017.
“We are pleased that we were able to obtain relief for the injuries Ms. Hunter suffered as a result of the Metropolitan Police Department’s actions, particularly given the MPD’s troubling history of warrantless entries into citizens’ homes,” said ACLU-DC attorney Shana Knizhnik. “We hope MPD and the District will use this as a lesson moving forward that the constitutional rights of all District residents must be respected.”
More about the case, Hunter v. D.C., can be found at: https://www.acludc.org/en/cases/hunter-v-rogers.