Tarabochia v. Adkins

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 09-09-2014
  • Case #: No. 11-35837
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Hawkins for the Court; Circuit Judges Bea and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

Department of Fish and Wildlife officers cannot invade a party’s right not to be stopped without having reasonable suspicion that the party had or was about to engage in unlawful activity.

On March 23, 2007, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (“WDFW”) Captain Michael Cenci and Sergeant Dan Chadwick stopped four members of the Tarabochia family while driving in their pick-up truck upon a state highway. About half an hour prior to the stop, an observer told Captain Cenci that he had seen the Tarabochias in an area frequently used by commercial fishers to unload their catch. The officers suspected the Tarabochias had salmon on their truck, but had no suspicion of any violations of fish and game laws. The Tarabochias claim that the stop was part of a long time vendetta WDFW personnel had against the Tarabochia family. In 2006, Joseph Tarabochia requested a meeting with the local prosecutor and WDFW director, as the encounters between WDFW personnel and the Tarabochia family had escalated. The prosecutor found Captain Cenci’s behavior “outrageous” during the meeting because Captain Cenci wanted to frisk Joseph Tarabochia without any evidence he posed a threat. The officers left and the meeting ended. During the March 23 stop, salmon were found in the truck but they were not obtained in violation of any fish and game laws. Joseph and Matthew Tarabochia were cited for “avoiding a wildlife field inspection, and released.” Washington state district court dismissed all charges and the superior court upheld. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that WDFW officers cannot invade a party’s right not to be stopped without having reasonable suspicion that the party had or was about to engage in unlawful activity. The panel held that this stop lacked a basis and did not fall within an administrative search exception, so the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity. REVERSED in part, AFFIRMED in part, and REMANDED.

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