Green v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 05-12-2014
  • Case #: 11-17892
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Sessions for the Court,; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Thomas
  • Full Text Opinion

An officer who does not verify the plates of a stolen vehicle while making a stop may be making an unlawful stop.

 Denise Green was pulled over by officers of the San Francisco Police Department ("SFPD") after her car was falsely identified as stolen by an Automatic License Plate Reader ("ALPR"). As many as six officers conducted a "high risk" stop, which included holding Green at gunpoint, handcuffing her and forcing her to her knees. Green was compliant with the officers during the entire event. Officers were initially notified of the stolen vehicle after an ALPR took a picture of her license plate. The photograph of Green’s license plate was blurry and difficult to read and neither Officer Esparza nor Officer Pederson, the officers in the car equipped with the ALPR, could themselves see Green’s plates. The typical practice of SFPD officers was to verify the plate after receiving an ALPR match. Sergeant Kim, an officer nearby, heard the report of the stolen vehicle and without verifying that the license plate was correct, pulled Green over and initiated the "high risk" stop. Green filed an action against the City and County for violations of her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment on Green’s Fourth Amendment claims on the grounds that she could not, as a matter of law, show a constitutional violation. The panel, when viewing the record in light most favorable to Green believes a jury could find that the officers were unreasonable when none of the officers verified the license plate before making the "high risk" stop. Without officers having a reason for the stop, it is likely the stop itself was unlawful. Because it is unclear whether the stop was lawful, a jury could find that the amount of force used was excessive. Additionally, a jury must decide whether Sergeant Kim is subject to qualified immunity. If Sergeant Kim’s knew he was violating Green’s constitutional rights, the city and county may not have immunity. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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