Garcia v. City of Riverside

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 02-03-2016
  • Case #: 13-56857
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Berzon and Zouhary
  • Full Text Opinion

Officers do not have a duty to investigate every unsupported assertion of innocence of detained individuals; however, when a detainee claims misidentification and there is clear physical inconsistency between a warrant subject and a booked individual officers should explore readily accessible identity checks to insure they are not holding the incorrect person.

Mario Garcia, was arrested for driving under the influence and was subsequently booked at the county jail. He was electronically fingerprinted. Electronic fingerprints are sent to the California Department of Justice and if an arrestee’s fingerprints are already on file the person’s criminal identification and information (CII) number criminal history are sent to the agency that arrested the person. The CII number is linked to a number of personal identifiers such as name, birth date, address, and criminal history. When the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department searched for Garcia they found a felony warrant for “Mario L. Garcia” in Los Angeles. The warrant matched Garcia’s first and last name and date of birth. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department did not forward biometric identifiers with the warrant and Garcia alleged that he was not Mario L. Garcia. He was detained regardless. The biometrics would show that there was a nine inch and forty pound difference between the subject of the warrant and Garcia. Soon after, Garcia filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s response to Garcia’s argument that he was not the subject of the warrant was so superficial that it ignored a duty to investigate, thus offending due process. The panel held that while officers do not have a duty to individually investigate all unsupported assertions of innocence, the clear physical inconsistency between a warrant subject and a booked individual along with the detainee’s protests of misidentification should lead officers to explore readily accessible identity checks to make sure they are not holding the incorrect person. The failure of the officers to do that in this case constituted a due process violation. AFFIRMED.

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