Sandoval v. Las Vegas Metro Police Dep't

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 07-01-2014
  • Case #: 12-15654
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judge Thomas and District Judge Kendall
  • Full Text Opinion

Police officers executing a warrantless search are not entitled to qualified immunity if the search is not supported by an exception to the warrant requirement; however, separation of father and son for forty minutes and killing of family dog during execution of the search does not constitute deprivation of a familial relationship.

In October 2009, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“LVMPD”) responded to a call of prowling at the home of Jesus Sandoval. The responding officers saw three boys not matching the description of the prowlers, one of whom was Henry Sandoval, inside Sandoval’s house. Without asking questions the officers entered the house with guns drawn, and while leading the boys out of the house shot the family dog. Henry was allowed to call his father, who on returning became upset and was handcuffed, which exacerbated pain from a recent back surgery. He was denied repeated requests for his medication. The officers eventually left without citing or charging anyone, and the Sandovals brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the two officers and the LVMPD. The district court granted summary judgment to the officers on the basis of qualified immunity and the Sandovals appealed. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the officers’ entry was unlawful and not supported by probable cause or the existence of an exigency or emergency aid exception. The panel further concluded that the officers had used excessive force with regard to pointing a gun at the boys and later handcuffing them, particularly since the officers were responding to a call of prowling, which does not carry an inherent risk of violence. The panel held, however, that neither the separation of Jesus and Henry for forty minutes, nor the shooting of the dog, constituted a deprivation of a familial relationship. They then dismissed equal protection and municipal liability claims for lack of sufficient evidence. Lastly, the panel reversed the district court’s determination of state law claims with regard to the treatment of Jesus, and the handcuffing and detention of the boys once the officers knew no crime had been committed. REVERSED in part, AFFIRMED in part, and REMANDED.

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