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El-Nahal v. Yassky, , U. Lexis 2nd Cir. An 18 year-old driving to a Michigan summer camp took a wrong turn and accidentally wound up at the Canadian border. The toll-booth operator gave him a laminated card, prepared by Customs and Border Protection CBP that stated: "You are being allowed to turn around without traveling to Canada. Please present this card, along with your identification to an open CBP inspection booth prior to departing. Thank you. When he came to a CBP inspection booth, the officers searched his vehicle despite him saying that he had not crossed the border.

Marijuana and drug paraphernalia was found and he pled guilty to state misdemeanor charges. He then sued for unlawful search and seizure. Doe, , U. Lexis , Fed. After a woman reported that her former boyfriend had attacked and threatened to shoot her, police found the ex-boyfriend in a car they stopped nearby and handcuffed him, putting him in their squad car.

The driver consented to a vehicle search that revealed a gun in a shopping bag, which the ex-boyfriend admitted was his. Sentenced to prison for being a felon in possession of a firearms, he sued over the stop of the vehicle. A federal appeals court stated that while the search of the vehicle was consensual and the arrest was not unlawful, the stop of the car, which the defendants admitted that they lacked probable cause to stop, was an unreasonable seizure of the plaintiff's person, entitling him to damages.


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Giddeon v. Flynn, , U. Lexis 7th Cir. A boat owner claimed that a city and its officers unlawfully seized his sailboat and destroyed it without justification or notice.

Canadian Criminal Procedure and Practice/Search and Seizure/Warrantless Searches/Incident to Arrest

A federal appeals court, reinstating some of the plaintiff's claims, including procedural due process and search and seizure, found that the trial court acted erroneously in applying a "heightened pleading" burden. All the plaintiff needed to do to establish municipal liability was allege a policy, practice, or custom of the city which caused the seizure and destruction of his sailboat, which he did. His complaint did not need to specifically identify the municipality's final policymaker by name.

He also sufficiently stated a claim for an unconstitutional seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Hoefling, Jr. City of Miami, , F. An officer was entitled to qualified immunity in a female motorist's lawsuit claiming that he used excessive force against her during a search of her car after stopping her for a suspected window tint violation. He had probable cause to stop and search her car, and she refused to let him search it, struggling with him to prevent the search and stop him from taking her keys to turn off the car.

The only force complained about was two yanks to get her out of the driver's seat. The officer did not use any other force or handcuff her, so his use of force did not violate clearly established law under the circumstances. Merricks v. Adkisson, , F. A class action federal lawsuit was filed against a sheriff and the county sheriff's office claiming that they had a policy, practice, or custom of "racially profiling" Hispanic drivers and passengers and conducting pretextual vehicle stops for the purpose of enforcing federal and state immigration related laws.

A federal appeals court found that the county sheriff's office was improperly named as a defendant instead of the county. The sheriff's office had no separate capacity to be sued. It further ruled that trial court did not err in finding that there were unconstitutional policies in place going beyond the context of saturation patrols, even though the evidence presented of the violations mostly addressed saturation patrols..

The named plaintiffs had standing to assert the claims of absent class members stopped during such non-saturation patrols. An injunction issued by the trial court against the complained of practices was not overbroad because it included non-saturation patrols.

Traffic Stops

Some provisions of the injunctive order, however, in mandating that a court appointed monitor look at internal investigations and reports concerning officer misconduct, were problematic, however, to the extent that such material was unrelated to the constitutional violations at issue. An order requiring officer training properly focused on the racially discriminatory profiling of Latinos for traffic stops and unjustified prolongation of traffic stops.

Melendres v. Arpaio, , F. A K-9 officer stopped a motorist for a traffic violation, and issued a warning after attending to everything related to the stop, including checking driver's licenses. He then asked for consent to walk his dog around the vehicle, which was refused. The officer continued to detain the motorist until a second officer arrived and then retrieved his dog who alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle. A search subsequently found methamphetamine. The detention lasted about seven to eight minutes following the time the warning was issued until the dog alerted.

The U. Supreme Court, by a vote, held that absent reasonable suspicion the extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff constitutes an unreasonable search. On remand, the court should consider whether the detention for the dog sniff was independently supported by individualized suspicion. Rodriguez v. United States, , U. Lexis While the decision was made in the context of a criminal proceeding, the Court's reasoning would also apply in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Officers had reasonable suspicion for an investigatory Terry stop when they saw a man they believed was a suspect in two homicides in a group on a porch.

When they approached, the entire group fled, and it was reasonable for them to conduct further investigation, including stopping a vehicle fleeing the scene, detaining the occupants, drawing a weapon, and handcuffing a suspect while attempting to control the scene and account for those who had been on the porch. Matz v. Klotka, , U. Commercial fishers driving on a public highway in an auto were stopped by officers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to check for violations of fish and game laws.

None were found during the inspection. In a lawsuit, the fishers claimed that the stop and search of their vehicles violated their rights and that officers from the Department had harassed them over the years. A federal appeals court found that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity as the law on suspicionless warrantless searches was clearly established. The search lacked any suspicion of unlawful conduct or any statutory authority making the search permissible under an administrative search exception to the warrant requirement.

A substantive due process claim, however, was time barred under the applicable statute of limitations. Tarabochia v. Adkins, , U. Lexis 9th Cir. An officer's mistaken perception that the driver rather than a passenger was drinking alcohol in a double parked vehicle was objectively reasonable.

Conducting warrantless vehicle searches

Reasonable suspicion justified an investigatory stop and there was an objectively reasonable fear of danger justifying the officers drawing their weapons, handcuffing the vehicle occupants, and conducting a protective sweep of the vehicle when the driver failed to properly raise his hands and moved in the vehicle with his hands concealed. The 30 minutes taken for the stop was not unreasonable and the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on unlawful search and seizure claims.

Williams v. Decker, , U. A state trooper stopped an interstate motorist for speeding, and based on her answers to a few questions, decided to ask if he could search her car for drugs.

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Search and Seizure: Vehicle

She refused, and the trooped called for help from a K-9 unit officer to conduct a dog sniff. A two hour search was conducted and no drugs were found. A federal appeals court agreed with the trial court that the K-9 officer could not establish probable cause for the car search prior to the dog sniff. Additionally, there were disputed facts as to whether the dog alerted before jumping into the car and whether the K-9 officer facilitated the dog's entry into the car before probable cause was established, so his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity was denied.


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Felders v. Malcom, , U. Lexis 10th Cir. A police officer allegedly made a "high-risk" stop of a woman's vehicle, which he mistakenly identified as stolen based on an automatic license plate reader's error. She was detained for up to 20 minutes at gunpoint, forced to her knees, and handcuffed. The dismissal of the lawsuit was reversed, as a rational jury could find for the plaintiff on her wrongful seizure, false arrest, or excessive force claims.

Qualified immunity was not available as the court could not say, as a matter of law, that the officer could have reasonably believed that the force used was lawful under the alleged circumstances. There was no indication at the scene of the incident that the motorist posed any threat. Green v. City and County of San Francisco, , U. The totality of the circumstances gave a California Highway Patrol officer reasonable suspicion that a driver was intoxicated based on his pickup truck matching the description of a vehicle that a caller reported as having run her off the road.