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Rivera v. County of Los Angeles

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 12, 2014

SANTIAGO IBARRA RIVERA, individually and as class representative, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO; SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendants-Appellees

Argued and Submitted May 8, 2013, Pasadena, California

Page 385

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:10-cv-01861-PSG-DTB. Philip S. Gutierrez, District Judge, Presiding.

Donald W. Cook, Los Angeles, California, argued the cause and filed the briefs for the plaintiff-appellant. With him on the briefs was Robert Mann, Los Angeles, California.

Scott E. Caron, Lawrence Beach Allen & Choi, P.C., Glendale, California, argued the cause and filed the brief for the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. With him on the brief was Michael D. Allen, Lawrence Beach Allen & Choi, P.C., Glendale, California.

James H. Thebeau, Deputy County Counsel, San Bernardino, California, argued the cause and filed the brief for the County of San Bernardino and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Before: Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Richard A. Paez, and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge O'Scannlain; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge Paez.

OPINION

Page 386

O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge.

We must deal with a case of mistaken identity arising out of the arrest and detention of a person named on a warrant not intended to describe him.

I

A

In July 1985, a Los Angeles Superior Court issued an arrest warrant for " Santiago Rivera." On June 18, 1989, officers of the Montclair Police Department arrested Santiago Rivera, the plaintiff in this case, on the 1985 warrant. Fingerprint analysis revealed, however, that the Santiago Rivera who was arrested (" Rivera" or " the plaintiff" ) was not the Santiago Rivera sought by the warrant (" the subject of the

Page 387

warrant" ). Due to the risk of such mistaken identification recurring, the municipal court issued Rivera a judicial clearance form, which indicated that he was not the subject of the warrant.

On July 6, 1989, the court reissued the warrant but did not indicate that Rivera had been determined not to be its subject. The 1989 warrant described the subject as a Hispanic male with brown hair and brown eyes, 5'5" tall, and 180 pounds in weight. It included a date of birth matching Rivera's and suggested that the subject did not have visible scars or tattoos.

On March 7, 2009, deputies from the San Bernadino Sheriff's Department stopped a car in which Rivera was traveling because it lacked a license plate. Using Rivera's identification to run a routine warrant check, the deputies learned of the 1989 warrant for a " Santiago Rivera" with the same date of birth as the plaintiff. Rivera informed one of the deputies that he was not the warrant's subject and had been issued a judicial clearance form after the erroneous 1989 arrest. When asked to produce that form, however, Rivera stated that he could not locate it.

Upon the deputies' request, dispatch informed them that the warrant was active and provided the physical description from the warrant. Rivera's driver's license described him as 5'6" tall and as weighing 170 pounds. Believing Rivera to be the subject of the warrant, the deputies arrested him and took him to a detention center in San Bernadino, where his fingerprints were taken. San Bernadino officials transferred custody of the plaintiff to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department two days later.

On the next morning, Rivera appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court. Represented by a public defender, he did not tell the judge that he was not the subject of the warrant. At his next hearing, on March 24, 2009, Rivera argued that he was not the subject of the warrant. Because the court could not determine whether he was the subject of the warrant at that time, the court remanded Rivera to custody until April 7, 2009. As of April 7, 2009, the staff at the Los Angeles archives had still been unable to locate the documents that would contain the true subject's fingerprints. The court again remanded Rivera to custody while the search for the proper documents continued. Two days later, the court released the plaintiff after it was determined that his fingerprints did not match the fingerprints of the true subject of the warrant.

To prevent mistaken identity in the future, the court issued the plaintiff a new judicial clearance form and added the plaintiff's photograph and fingerprints to the case file. The court also reissued the warrant with the true subject's middle name, which differs from Rivera's middle name.

B

In 2010, Rivera sued Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, San Bernadino County, and the San Bernadino County Sheriff's Department (" the Counties" ), alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, violation of the Bane Act (California Civil Code § 52.1), and common law false imprisonment.

The district court granted the Counties' motions for summary judgment on all of Rivera's claims. The district court also denied his motion for reconsideration. Rivera timely appealed.

II

Rivera asserts that the district court erred in rejecting his claims that the Counties violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment

Page 388

rights and that he can recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint alleged multiple constitutional violations, all of which the district court rejected: (1) failure to include biometric identifiers in the 1989 warrant, (2) unlawful arrest based on the 1989 warrant, and (3) illegal detainment after arrest.

A

Rivera first argues that Los Angeles County violated the Fourth Amendment by issuing the 1989 warrant without including a number corresponding to the true subject's fingerprints.[1] The Fourth Amendment requires that any warrant " particularly describe... the persons or things to be seized." U.S. Const. amend IV. Rivera's argument amounts to a claim that the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment forbade Los Angeles County from issuing the warrant without fingerprint information.

1

In United States v. Espinosa, 827 F.2d 604 (9th Cir. 1987), we evaluated a warrant under the particularity requirement. The subject of that warrant was described as " a male Latin, name unknown, referred to in affidavit as John Doe # 1... approximately 35 years of age, 5'8" /5'10", approximately 200 pounds with black hair and black full beard." Id. at 607. Despite the omission of the subject's name, we held that such description sufficed under the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 611. A warrant containing the subject's sex, race, hair color, as well as approximate height, weight, and age, satisfied the particularity requirement when it was accompanied by an affidavit listing places that the subject might be found. See id. It follows that a warrant containing the subject's name, sex, race, hair color, eye color, and date of birth (rather than approximate age), in addition to approximate height and weight, is sufficiently particular, even if it does not list places that the subject might be found.

Confirming such analysis, other circuits have held that the inclusion of the subject's name alone satisfies the particularity requirement. Rejecting the contention that the Fourth Amendment " impose[s] stringent requirements on how warrants must describe their intended subjects," the Seventh Circuit has expressly noted that " an arrest warrant that correctly names the person to be arrested is [generally] considered constitutionally sufficient and need not contain any additional identifying information." White v. Olig, 56 F.3d 817, 819 (7th Cir. 1995); see also Powe v. City of Chicago, 664 F.2d 639, 645 (7th Cir. 1981). The Fifth Circuit has also recognized the general rule that " the inclusion of the name of the person to be arrested on the arrest warrant constitutes a sufficient ...


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