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Torres v. County of San Diego

January 2, 2008

FREDERICO TORRES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, R. GIBSON, J. COPPEDGE AND DOES 1-20, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Barry Ted Moskowitz United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's claims of unlawful search and seizure (42 U.S.C. § 1983) and state law false arrest. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. FACTS

On April 19, 2005, Plaintiff Frederico Torres was driving his 12-year old son to school in his Chevy van. Deputy Robert Gibson was parked at the intersection of Olive Avenue and Bonita Drive, watching for stop sign violations. (Gibson Depo. at 44-45.) Gibson claims that he saw Plaintiff's van approach the stop sign then drive through the intersection at approximately 15 m.p.h. without stopping. (Id. at 48:9-20.) In contrast, Plaintiff claims that he made a complete stop at the stop sign. (Torres Decl. ¶ 3; Torres Depo. at 19-20.)

Plaintiff had a valid driver's license but had left it at home that morning. (Torres Decl. ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff also claims that he had valid proof of insurance in the van. (Torres Decl. ¶ 5.)

Gibson claims that he had Plaintiff write down his name, date of birth, and address on a memo pad. (Gibson Depo. at 55-56.) Plaintiff claims that Deputy Gibson wrote down Plaintiff's name, after asking Plaintiff what his name was, and then handed the paper to Plaintiff to write his address. (Torres Decl. ¶ 7.) Whoever wrote Plaintiff's name down, the first name was incorrectly spelled "Fredericho." As a result, dispatch reported that there was no DMV record for Plaintiff. (Gibson Depo. at 31-32.) Plaintiff claims that Gibson repeatedly accused him of lying when he insisted that he had a valid driver's license at home. (Torres Decl. ¶ 7.)

When the DMV search failed to show a valid license for Plaintiff, Gibson escorted Plaintiff to the back of his patrol car. (Gibson Depo. at 58-59.) Gibson states that he performed a routine inventory search of the van because it had to be towed (due to the lack of a licensed driver for the vehicle). (Id. at 60.) Gibson claims that he did not find proof of insurance in the van. (Id. at 61.) Gibson did not ask Plaintiff whether he had proof of insurance with him. (Id. at 60.) Gibson claims that Plaintiff seemed upset when he learned that the vehicle had to be towed and started yelling words to the effect that he had a license and that the situation was unfair. (Id. at 62-63.)

Gibson wrote Plaintiff a ticket for (1) failure to stop at a stop sign (Vehicle Code § 22450); (2) being an unlicensed driver (Vehicle Code § 12500(a)); (3) no proof of insurance (Vehicle Code § 16028(a)); and (4) obstructing a peace officer (Penal Code § 148(a)(1)). (Ex. 2 to Marinnan Decl.)

According to Gibson, he tried several times to get Plaintiff to sign the ticket, but Plaintiff would not do so. (Gibson Depo. at 73.) Gibson claims that for a period of 5-10 minutes, he tried to explain the court process to Plaintiff and tried to make him understand that he was not necessarily admitting guilt by signing the ticket. (Id. at 73-74.) Plaintiff argued that he had stopped at the stop sign and indicated that he was not going to sign the ticket. (Id.) By this time, another deputy, J. Coppedge had arrived on the scene. Coppedge, who speaks some Spanish, talked to Plaintiff in both English and Spanish about signing the ticket. (Id. at 75.) Gibson claims that Plaintiff still would not sign the ticket. Gibson explains that after five or ten minutes more of asking Plaintiff to sign the ticket, he and Coppedge had no choice but to arrest Plaintiff.

Plaintiff has a different version of events. Plaintiff denies ever refusing to sign the citation. (Torres Decl. ¶ 6.) He explains that due to the language barrier, he did not understand what Gibson wanted him to sign. (Id.) Torres also claims that neither deputy told him he could be arrested if he did not immediately sign the ticket. (Id.) Plaintiff states that when Coppedge asked him to sign the ticket, he simply repeated that he had a valid license. (Id.) Immediately thereafter, the deputies grabbed his arms, broke his elbow, and arrested him. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that everything happened very quickly. (Id.; Torres Depo. at 34:19.)

Plaintiff denies obstructing Deputy Gibson or any other deputy on the date of his arrest. (Torres Decl. ¶ 5.)

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants seek summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claims for unlawful search and seizure (42 U.S.C. ยง 1983) and false arrest. The Court grants ...


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