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COLE v. DOE OFFICERS OF EMERYVILLE POLICE

September 1, 2005.

PAUL D. COLE, Plaintiff,
v.
DOE 1 THRU 2 OFFICERS OF THE CITY OF EMERYVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EDWARD CHEN, Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docket No. 57)
Plaintiff Paul D. Cole has filed suit against Defendants the City of Emeryville, Officer Edward Mayorga, and Officer Robert Alton for violation of his civil rights. More specifically, Mr. Cole has sued the individual officers for violation of § 1983 (the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and to equal protection); violation of California Civil Code § 52.1 and the California Constitution, article I, § 13 (the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures); battery; and false imprisonment. Mr. Cole has sued the City for a § 1983 violation (the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures). Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

Having considered the parties' briefs and accompanying submissions, as well as the oral argument of counsel, the Court hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion for summary judgment. I. LEGAL STANDARD

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment shall be rendered "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue of fact is genuine only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmoving party]." Id. at 252. At the summary judgment stage, evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in the nonmoving's favor. See id. at 255.

  II. FACTS

  The facts, viewed in Mr. Cole's favor, are as follows. It is undisputed that, on or about April 4, 2003, Mr. Cole was driving in Oakland when he had an encounter with Officer Mayorga and Officer Alton. That encounter consisted of: (1) a stop; (2) a detention; and (3) a search of Mr. Cole's car, both the interior and trunk.

  A. Initial Stop

  Prior to the stop, Officer Mayorga had information from an informant that Mr. Cole was selling drugs in the 3400 or 3200 block of Hannah in Oakland. See Novotny Decl., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 52); see also Novotny Decl., Ex. D (Diotalevi Dep. at 45); McHenry Decl., Ex. 3 (Alton Dep. at 49). A day or so before the stop, Officer Mayorga asked dispatch for information about Mr. Cole to see, e.g., if he had any warrants. See id., Ex. 2 (Mayorga Dep. at 37-38) (also stating that he might have checked himself for information on Mr. Cole). Although there is some evidence that Officer Mayorga was told that Mr. Cole had a suspended driver's license (see McHenry Decl., Ex. 9 (Tr. at 3-4)), there is also evidence (from the dispatcher PST Janet Tso) that Officer Mayorga was told that Mr. Cole had a valid license. See McHenry Decl., Ex. 7 (Tr. at 3-4) ("I'm not sure but I believe I said `valid.'"). There is no dispute that Officer Mayorga did not try to get an arrest or search warrant for Mr. Cole based on the information that Officer Mayorga had. See id., Ex. 2 (Mayorga Dep. at 55). Instead, Officer Mayorga and Officer Alton asked permission of Sgt. Dante Diotalevi to be in Oakland because of the information in their possession. See id., Ex. 8 (Tr. at 1). Drawing the inferences in Mr. Cole's favor, Officers Mayorga and Alton decided to specifically target Mr. Cole.

  A day later, Mr. Cole was on his way from work to meet with family members to make funeral arrangements for his mother who had passed away two days earlier. See McHenry Decl., Ex. 1 (Cole Decl. ¶ 3). As he made a left onto a street called Louise, he saw a police car backing up and parking at the next intersection. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶ 4). At the intersection of Louise and 32d, Mr. Cole pulled up right next to the police car. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶ 5). He looked directly at the two officers inside their vehicle and made eye contact with one of them. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶ 5). Because Mr. Cole saw the officers, he made certain to follow every traffic law, including making a complete stop at Louise and 32d. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶ 6). Mr. Cole then made a left turn onto 32d. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶ 6). Before Mr. Cole reached the next intersection at 32d and Helen, the officers initiated a stop, using lights and a siren. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶¶ 7-8). Mr. Cole made a complete stop at the intersection of 32d and Helen and then pulled over. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶¶ 7-8).

  The officers contend that Mr. Cole failed to come to a complete stop at the stop sign which led to the police stop. Even though Officer Mayorga states that he believed Mr. Cole was driving on a suspended license at the time, there is no dispute that the reason for the stop was the stop sign violation. See Novotny Decl., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 32); id., Exs. E-F (interrogatory responses of Officer Mayorga and Officer Alton). The officers' accounts differ as to the actual location of the violation. Officer Mayorga states that the violation occurred at the intersection at 32d and Helen while Officer Alton states that the violation occurred at 32d and Louise. See id., Ex. C (Alton Dep. at 18).

  B. Detention and Search of Mr. Cole's Car (Interior and Trunk)

  After Mr. Cole was stopped by Officer Mayorga and Officer Alton, the officers asked Mr. Cole for, inter alia, his driver's license. See McHenry Decl., Ex. 1 (Cole Decl. ¶ 9); Novotny Decl., Ex. A (Cole Dep. at 49). The officers ran Mr. Cole's license, which came back suspended. See id., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 14). Mr. Cole was thus ordered out of the car. See McHenry Decl., Ex. 1 (Cole Decl. ¶¶ 10-11); Novotny Decl., Ex. A (Cole Dep. at 56-57). Mr. Cole was under arrest because he was driving without a valid license. See id., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 16); see also id., Exs. E-F (interrogatory responses of Officer Mayorga and Officer Alton). He was then cuffed.

  A tow truck was called in order to take care of Mr. Cole's car. See Novotny Decl., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 16, 22); id., Ex. C (Alton Dep. at 37). Ultimately, the car was not towed away and the tow truck was cancelled after the officers learned Mr. Cole's license was valid. See Novotny Decl., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 16, 22). Prior to that, however, Officer Mayorga and Officer Alton commenced an inventory search of Mr. Cole's car. See id. (Mayorga Dep. at 45-46); id., Ex. C (Alton Dep. at 82); id., Ex. D (Diotalevi Dep. at 44). According to Officer Mayorga, an inventory form was started but must have been shredded because the officers later learned that Mr. Cole's driver's license was in fact valid. See id., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 45-46).

  Mr. Cole's car was searched not only as part of an inventory search but also as part of a search for Mr. Cole's insurance papers. Although disputed by the officers, Mr. Cole states that he had given his insurance papers to the police earlier when his car was first stopped. See id., Ex. A (Cole Dep. at 49); McHenry Decl., Ex. 1 (Cole Decl. ¶ 9). Mr. Cole also claims that he told the officers that he could get the insurance papers for the officers but was refused that opportunity. See id., Ex. 5 (Cole Dep. at 78).

  During the search of Mr. Cole's car and while Mr. Cole was detained, the officers were notified by dispatch that a mistake had been made and that Mr. Cole's driver's license was actually valid, not suspended. See Novotny Decl., Ex. C (Alton Dep. at 36-37). According to Mr. Cole, he was told by the officers that his license was not suspended but that he was not then released; instead he was detained in the back of the police car, and the search continued. See McHenry Decl., Ex. 1 (Cole Decl. ¶¶ 18-20). In addition, according to Mr. Cole, one of the officers asked him repeatedly if there was anything in the trunk that the officers should know about and that the officer suggested that he would take the handcuffs off and release Mr. Cole if and when Mr. Cole consented to the search of the trunk. See id. Mr. Cole claims that he finally consented to the search of the trunk to end the ordeal and that, only after the trunk was searched, was he let out of the police car and uncuffed. See id. (Cole Decl. ¶¶ 18-20).

  Mr. Cole's account of the timing of his release and termination of the search are disputed by the officers. The officers further contend that Mr. Cole was immediately released from the back of the police car and the cuffs taken off, see Novotny Decl., Ex. D (Diotalevi Dep. at 18); id., Ex. B (Mayorga Dep. at 21-22), and that only then did Officer Mayorga ask Mr. Cole permission to search the trunk of the car, to which Mr. Cole voluntarily assented. See id. (Mayorga Dep. at 21-22); id., Ex. C (Alton Dep. at 43-44).

  At the conclusion of the encounter, Mr. Cole was issued a citation for failing to stop at the intersection. According to Mr. Cole, he had no recollection of being told that he ran the stop sign before he was actually handed the ticket. See McHenry Decl., Ex. 1 (Cole Decl. ¶ 21). When Mr. Cole asked why he was being given the ticket, one of the officers said it was to "cover [his] ass." Id. (Cole Decl. ¶ 21).

  Subsequently, Mr. Cole challenged the traffic citation before the traffic commissioner for Alameda County. Based on the records submitted to the Court and the accounts provided at oral argument, this proceeding was summary. Mr. Cole was not represented nor is there any indication that he had any pre-trial discovery or opportunity for extensive cross-examination. After the citation was sustained, Mr. Cole appealed to the Alameda County Superior Court, where the citation was once again upheld on a settled statement rather than live testimony. See RJN, Exs. 1-5.*fn1

  III. DISCUSSION

  A. Section 1983 Claim Based on Equal Protection

  As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that all of the § 1983 claims raised by Mr. Cole are based on the Fourth Amendment (i.e., unreasonable search or seizure), except for one § 1983 claim against the individual officers which is based on the Fourteenth Amendment (i.e., equal protection). Mr. Cole's § 1983 claim based on the Fourteenth Amendment is predicated on the allegation that the officers' actions in stopping and then detaining and searching Mr. Cole were racially motivated. See, e.g., FAC ¶¶ 12, 14 (claiming that, "because [Mr. Cole] was an African American driving a late model car, the Emeryville police officers initiated a traffic stop" and that, "[n]otwithstanding the fact that Mr. Cole provided a valid driver's license, because he is an African American, he was ordered out of the vehicle, searched, handcuffed and locked in the back of the police car").

  As part of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants argued that the equal protection-based claim should be dismissed, not only under the Heck rule (discussed below) but also because of a lack of evidence regarding a racially discriminatory intent or motive on the part of the officers. See Mot. at 5. Mr. Cole failed to address this argument in his opposition. At the hearing, Mr. Cole confirmed that he was no longer pursuing this claim. Therefore, Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim against the officers to the extent it is based on the Fourteenth Amendment only (not the Fourth) is granted.

  B. Section 1983 Claims Based on the Fourth Amendment

  In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Supreme Court held that,
in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit.
Id. at 486-87. Defendants argue that, under the Heck rule, all of Mr. Cole's § 1983 claims based on the Fourth Amendment are barred (both those asserted against the individual officers and the City) because the claims "would necessarily imply the unlawfulness" of Mr. Cole's conviction for a traffic violation. Mot. at 4. The Court rejects the argument for several reasons. First, not all of Mr. Cole's § 1983 claims would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction for a traffic violation. See Harvey v. Waldron, 210 F.3d 1008, 1015-16 (9th Cir. 2000) (rejecting a general exception to Heck for § 1983 Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure claims; applying a fact-intensive inquiry to see if § 1983 claim would necessarily imply invalidity of underlying conviction). Mr. Cole's federal claims are predicated on (1) an unreasonable stop, (2) an unreasonable detention, and (3) an unreasonable search. Only the claims directly related to the initial stop — i.e., that the officers had no probable cause for the stop — would necessarily imply the invalidity of Mr. Cole's traffic conviction. See, e.g., Quintana v. Gates, No. CV 00-07166 GAF (AJWx), 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14887, at *26-27 (C.D. Cal. July 27, 2004) ("To prevail on false arrest claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendants lacked probable cause to arrest him. When the facts supporting the officers' probable cause determination are the same as the facts supporting the plaintiff's conviction, a finding that the officers lacked probable cause would `necessarily imply the invalidity' of the plaintiff's conviction."); Falcone v. Village of Hanover Park, No. 02 C 8747, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25293, at *26-28 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 10, 2004) (rejecting a categorical rule that any and all claims for unlawful arrest barred by subsequent conviction that stems from that arrest; but agreeing that, in this case, for plaintiff to succeed on her false arrest claim it would necessarily impugn validity of her conviction). The other claims would not.

  For example, a judgment in favor of Mr. Cole with respect to the claim that he was improperly detained because he was not released immediately after the officers learned about the mistake regarding his driver's license would not affect the validity of his conviction for failure to stop at a stop sign. The same is true with respect to Mr. Cole's claim that his car (both interior and trunk) were improperly searched. See, e.g., id. at *34 (concluding that plaintiff's unreasonable search and seizure claim was not precluded by Heck because blood and urine samples, even if taken unlawfully, were taken from plaintiff well after actions that support her resisting arrest conviction — possible that jury could find that she resisted arrest while at roadside and then was unlawfully searched or seized by taking of samples at hospital or police station); Fritz v. City of Corrigan, 163 F. Supp. 2d 639, 642 (E.D. Tex. 2001) (concluding that plaintiff's claim of unreasonable detention was not barred by Heck because whether detention was constitutionally reasonable would not affect his conviction for speeding); Sumpter v. Bolingbrook Police Dep't, No. 94 C 1306, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3699, at *7-8 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 27, ...


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