Dougherty v. City of Covina

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-16-2011
  • Case #: 09-56395
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge N. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judge Fletcher; Senior District Judge Brewster concurring
  • Full Text Opinion

A search warrant lacks probable cause when “the only evidence linking the suspect’s attempted child molestation to possession of child pornography is the experience of the requesting police officer, with no further explanation.” Because the Ninth Circuit “ha[d] not previously addressed this question” the officers are entitled to qualified immunity.

Five police officers of the Covina Police Department searched Bruce Dougherty’s home, based on a search warrant that authorized officers to search for child pornography on Dougherty’s computer. After the search, Dougherty sued the officers claiming (1) violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, (2) that “the City inadequately trained and inadequately investigated complaints about its officers,” and (3) the City and officers “inadequately supervised and trained their subordinates with respect to the incidents alleged.” The district court dismissed Dougherty’s complaint and Dougherty appealed. First, the Ninth Circuit held that there was no probable cause for the search warrant as the affidavit “contain[ed] no facts tying the acts of Dougherty as a possible child molester to his possession of child pornography.” Second, the Ninth Circuit held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because “the law was not clearly established at the time of the alleged events” regarding whether the “allegations of sexual misconduct,” “provide[d] probable cause to search a residence for child pornography.” Third, the Ninth Circuit found that the City could not be held liable because “the Complaint lacked any factual allegations regarding key elements of the Monell claims” or “any facts demonstrating that his constitutional deprivation was the result of a custom or practice of the City of Covina or that the custom or practice was the ‘moving force’ behind his constitutional deprivation.” AFFIRMED.

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