Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Denise Green v. City and County of San Francisco and the San

September 23, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Seeborg United States District Judge

*E-Filed 9/23/11*

For the Northern District of California court



This suit arises out of the mistaken belief that plaintiff Denise Green was driving a vehicle 22 with a license plate that did not match her car and that had been reported stolen. The Automatic 23 License Plate Recognition System (ALPRS) utilized by Officer Alberto Esparza of the San 24 Francisco Police Department (SFPD) indicated that the plate on Green's Lexus, 5SOW350, matched 25 5SOW750, which was reported as belonging to a stolen GMC. Sergeant Ja Han Kim of the SFPD 26 heard an exchange between Esparza and the dispatcher confirming that 5SOW750 was stolen 27 without realizing that Esparza had not been able to confirm visually a match between that number 28 and Green's plate. Kim concluded he had reasonable suspicion to conduct a "high risk felony stop" (alternatively, "felony stop") of Green's vehicle, which involved ordering her from her car at 2 gunpoint and handcuffing her. After Green was detained in that manner, Kim learned that there had 3 been a mistake. 4

Green subsequently filed suit against the City and County of San Francisco and the SFPD (collectively, the "City") and Sergeant Kim*fn1 alleging: (1) Fourth Amendment violations by Kim for 6 unreasonable search and seizure and unreasonable use of force; (2) Fourth Amendment violations by 7 the City; (3) violation of Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress 8 (IIED); (5) assault; and (6) negligence. Green moves for partial summary judgment on her Fourth 9 Amendment claim against Kim and on her California Civil Code section 52.1 claim against all 10 defendants. Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that Kim had reasonable suspicion to stop Green's vehicle and that he used reasonable force. Based on the parties' submissions and oral argument, and for the reasons stated below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted, and plaintiff's motions for partial summary judgment are denied.


The following facts are undisputed. On March 29, 2009, around 11:15 p.m., Green drove southbound on Mission Street in San Francisco in her burgundy Lexus ES 300. She passed the patrol car of Officers Esparza and Pedersen. The officers were parked facing northbound while they 18 conducted a traffic stop. Their patrol car was equipped with an ALPRS. With this technology, 19 infrared cameras mounted on the patrol car capture images of license plates on passing vehicles. 20

Additionally, the patrol car contains a computer including software that compares each captured 21 plate number with those contained in a database downloaded onto it. If the software finds a match 22 between the license plate and the numbers in the database, the captured image is displayed on the 23 computer screen next to the license plate number found in the database. 24

After Green drove past the patrol car, the ALPRS alerted Officers Esparza and Pedersen that 25 her plate was a match with one listed in the database for a stolen vehicle. In fact, Green's plate 26 number is 5SOW350 and the plate listed in the database was 5SOW750. Although officers know 27 that an ALPRS can misread plates, they can confirm the match either by looking directly at the plate 28 on the vehicle or by checking the captured image and comparing either one to the number from the 2 database displayed on the computer screen. In this case, the computer displayed the captured 3 infrared image of Green's license plate, but it was unclear and Esparza could not read it. 4

Additionally, the officers had someone in custody and therefore did not follow Green's car and 5 visually confirm the match. 6

Instead, Esparza broadcast that Green's car was a stolen vehicle. ("David 14 David. Um, 7 heading southbound on Mission from Cesar Chavez a 10-30 [stolen] vehicle, California 5 Sam 8 Ingleside if anybody wants to go get it.") He did not mention that he had not visually confirmed 10 that the plate on Green's car was the same as the number from the database. Esparza asked the dispatcher to confirm that the plate from the database was listed as stolen. ("Is that a confirmed plate, Dispatch, or not? Because this is a camera car also, so I'm not sure. Confirm it.") The dispatcher broadcast that the plate was listed as belonging to a stolen GMC. ("Yeah, it is showing 10-30. This is a 1999 GMC, gray in color, with a plate of 5 Sam Ocean William 750.") Sergeant 15 stolen vehicle with plate number 5SOW750. Kim asked Esparza over the radio for a description of the car and Esparza stated that it was possibly a Lexus, dark in color, possibly burgundy. 18 19 plate. He then followed her in his marked patrol car. Based on the information he heard from 20 Esparza and the dispatcher, Kim decided to conduct a high-risk felony stop*fn2 of Green. Kim pulled 21 behind Green's car at a red light and waited for back-up officers. Green did not commit any traffic 22 violations or make any suspicious movements. During the time he was behind her car, Kim did not 23 read the full plate number on Green's vehicle himself. He did not look for or notice any discrepancy 24 between the number broadcast as stolen and Green's plate. Furthermore, he did not ask dispatch to 25 confirm that Green's plate was stolen prior to effecting the stop. 26

Ocean William 750 just passing my camera car now. I have a custody. Just information for 9 Kim was located a few blocks south on Mission when he heard Esparza's first broadcast about a Green drove past Kim in her burgundy Lexus and he saw the first few numbers of her license Kim signaled for Green to pull over and she complied. At this point, the parties' versions of Green's detention include some disputed facts. In particular, they disagree on the number of 3 officers who pointed guns at Green and the length of her detention. Kim does not remember how 4 many additional officers participated in the stop, but there were at least two and up to six. Green 5 was ordered out of her car by one of the other officers. Kim stood in the "V" of his car door and 6 pointed his gun at Green. Additional officers also pointed their guns at Green. Green remembers 7 seeing a shotgun pointed at her. Kim holstered his gun and ordered Green to walk backwards 8 toward his voice with her hands up. After she was some distance from the car, Kim ordered her to 9 get down on her knees. Green had some physical difficulty complying, which Kim observed, but 10 eventually she succeeded. Kim then handcuffed Green's hands behind her back. After other officers cleared her car, Kim ordered Green to stand up. She was unable to do so unassisted and Kim had to grab her under the arm to pull her up. After she was standing, she remained handcuffed while pat searched by another officer.

After Kim stopped Green's car, he asked the dispatcher to run the number 5SOW350. Even 15 then, he did not notice the discrepancy between Green's plate and the number Esparza had broadcast. According to defendants, approximately three minutes passed before Kim learned that Green's plate matched her car and that it indeed was not stolen. Kim then told other officers to 18 remove the handcuffs from Green. Thus, defendants suggest that Green was in handcuffs for about 19 two minutes. Green estimates that she was placed in handcuffs for about ten minutes and detained 20 for between eighteen to twenty minutes. Defendants do not estimate the total length of Green's 21 detention. They ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.