Citation. Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 121 S. Ct. 1536, 149 L. Ed. 2d 549, 2001 U.S. LEXIS 3366, 69 U.S.L.W. 4262, 2001 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3203, 2001 Daily Journal DAR 3953, 2001 Colo. J. C.A.R. 2069, 14 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 193 (U.S. Apr. 24, 2001)
Brief Fact Summary. A mother was taken into custody for violation of Texas’ strict seatbelt law. She subsequently sued for Fourth Amendment violations. Facts.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. “The standard of probable cause ‘applies to all arrests, without the need to balance the interests and circumstances involved in particular situations."”
Tex. Tran. Code Ann. Section: 545.413(a) (1999) requires that any passenger in the front seat wear a seatbelt, and Section: 545.413(b) requires any small child riding in the front to be secure. Petitioner Gail Atwater [“the petitioner”] was driving with her two small children, none of whom were wearing seatbelts. They were stopped by a police officer who observed that they were not wearing seatbelts. According to the respondent, the officer was aggressive with her. She was arrested, had her mug shot taken, and placed in jail for one hour. Issue.
“[W]hether the Fourth Amendment forbids a warrantless arrest for a minor criminal offense, such as a misdemeanor seatbelt violation punishable only by a fine.”