544 U.S. 93 (2005), 03-1423, Muehler v. Mena

Docket Nº:No. 03-1423
Citation:544 U.S. 93, 125 S.Ct. 1465, 161 L.Ed.2d 299, 73 U.S.L.W. 4211
Party Name:DARIN L. MUEHLER, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. IRIS MENA
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 93

544 U.S. 93 (2005)

125 S.Ct. 1465, 161 L.Ed.2d 299, 73 U.S.L.W. 4211

DARIN L. MUEHLER, ET AL., PETITIONERS

v.

IRIS MENA

No. 03-1423

United States Supreme Court

March 22, 2005

Argued December 8, 2004

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent Mena and others were detained in handcuffs during a search of the premises they occupied. Petitioners were lead members of a police detachment executing a search warrant of these premises for, inter alia, deadly weapons and evidence of gang membership. Mena sued the officers under 42 U.S.C. §1983, and the District Court found in her favor. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the use of handcuffs to detain Mena during the search violated the Fourth Amendment and that the officers' questioning of Mena about her immigration status during the detention constituted an independent Fourth Amendment violation.

Held:

1. Mena's detention in handcuffs for the length of the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment. That detention is consistent with Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 705, in which the Court held that officers executing a search warrant for contraband have the authority "to detain the occupants of the premises while a proper search is conducted." The Court there noted that minimizing the risk of harm to officers is a substantial justification for detaining an occupant during a search, id., at 702-703, and ruled that an officer's authority to detain incident to a search is categorical and does not depend on the "quantum of proof justifying detention or the extent of the intrusion to be imposed by the seizure," id., at 705, n. 19. Because a warrant existed to search the premises and Mena was an occupant of the premises at the time of the search, her detention for the duration of the search was reasonable under Summers. Inherent in Summers' authorization to detain is the authority to use reasonable force to effectuate the detention. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396. The use of force in the form of handcuffs to detain Mena was reasonable because the governmental interest in minimizing the risk of harm to both officers and occupants, at its maximum when a warrant authorizes a search for weapons and a wanted gang member resides on the premises, outweighs the marginal intrusion. See id., at 396-397. Moreover, the need to detain multiple occupants made the use of handcuffs all the more reasonable. Cf. Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 414. Although the duration of a detention can affect the balance of interests, the 2- to 3-hour detention

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in handcuffs in this case does not outweigh the government's continuing safety interests. Pp. 98-100.

2. The officers' questioning of Mena about her immigration status during her detention did not violate her Fourth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit's holding to the contrary appears premised on the assumption that the officers were required to have independent reasonable suspicion in order to so question Mena. However, this Court has "held repeatedly that mere police questioning does not constitute a seizure." Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434. Because Mena's initial detention was lawful and the Ninth Circuit did not hold that the detention was prolonged by the questioning, there was no additional seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and, therefore, no additional Fourth Amendment justification for inquiring about Mena's immigration status was required. Cf. Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407-408. Pp. 100-102.

3. Because the Ninth Circuit did not address Mena's alternative argument that her detention extended beyond the time the police completed the tasks incident to the search, this Court declines to address it. See, e.g., Pierce County v. Guillen, 537 U.S. 129, 148, n. 10. P. 102.

332 F.3d 1255, vacated and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 102. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 104.

Carter G. Phillips argued the cause for petitioners. Withhim on the briefs were Joseph R. Guerra and David H.Hirsch.

Kannon K. Shanmugam argued the cause for the UnitedStates as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him onthe brief were Acting Solicitor General Clement, AssistantAttorney General Wray, and Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben.

Paul L. Hoffman argued the cause for respondent. Withhim on the brief were Benjamin Schonbrun, Michael S.Morrison, and Erwin Chemerinsky[*]

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OPINION

Rehnquist, Chief Justice

Respondent Iris Mena was detained in handcuffs during a search of the premises that she and several others occupied. Petitioners were lead members of a police detachment executing a search warrant of these premises. She sued the officers under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U.S.C. §1983, and the District Court found in her favor. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, holding that the use of handcuffs to detain Mena during the search violated the Fourth Amendment and that the officers' questioning of Mena about her immigration status during the detention constituted an independent Fourth Amendment violation. Mena v. Simi Valley, 332 F.3d 1255 (CA9 2003). We hold that Mena's detention in handcuffs for the length of the search was consistent with our opinion in Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), and that the officers' questioning during that detention did not violate her Fourth Amendment rights.

* * *

Based on information gleaned from the investigation of a gang-related, drive by shooting, petitioners Muehler and Brill had reason to believe at least one member of a gang—the West Side Locos—lived at 1363 Patricia Avenue. They also suspected that the individual was armed and dangerous, since he had recently been involved in the driveby shooting. As a result, Muehler obtained a search warrant for 1363 Patricia Avenue that authorized a broad search of the house and premises for, among other things, deadly weapons and

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evidence of gang membership. In light of the high degree of risk involved in searching a house suspected of housing at least one, and perhaps multiple, armed gang members, a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team was used to secure the residence and grounds before the search.

At 7 a.m. on February 3, 1998, petitioners, along with the SWAT team and other officers, executed the warrant. Mena was asleep in her bed when the SWAT team, clad in helmets and black vests adorned with badges and the word "POLICE," entered her bedroom and placed her in handcuffs at gunpoint. The SWAT team also handcuffed three other individuals found on the property. The SWAT team then took those individuals and Mena into a converted garage, which contained several beds and some other bedroom furniture. While the search proceeded, one or two officers guarded the four detainees, who were allowed to move around the garage but remained in handcuffs.

Aware that the West Side Locos gang was composed primarily of illegal immigrants, the officers had notified the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that they would be conducting the search, and an INS officer accompanied the officers executing the warrant. During their detention in the garage, an officer asked for each detainee's name, date of birth, place of birth, and immigration status. The INS officer later asked the detainees for their immigration documentation. Mena's status as a permanent resident was confirmed by her papers.

The search of the premises yielded a .22 caliber handgun with .22 caliber ammunition, a box of .25 caliber ammunition, several baseball bats with gang writing, various additional gang paraphernalia, and a bag of marijuana. Before the officers left the area, Mena was released.

In her §1983 suit against the officers she alleged that she was detained "for an unreasonable time and in an unreasonable manner" in violation of the Fourth Amendment. App. 19.

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In addition, she claimed that the warrant and its execution were overbroad, that the officers failed to comply with the "knock and announce" rule, and that the officers had needlessly destroyed property during the search. The officers moved for summary judgment, asserting that they were entitled to qualified immunity, but the District Court denied their motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed that denial, except for Mena's claim that the warrant was overbroad; on this claim the Court of Appeals held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. Mena v. Simi Valley, 226 F.3d 1031 (CA9 2000). After a trial, a jury, pursuant to a special verdict form, found that Officers Muehler and Brill violated Mena's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures by detaining her both with force greater than that which was reasonable and for a longer period than that which was reasonable. The jury awarded Mena $10,000 in actual damages and $20,000 in punitive damages against each petitioner for a total of $60,000.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment on two grounds. 332 F.3d 1255 (CA9 2003). Reviewing the denial of qualified immunity de novo, id., at 1261, n. 2, it first held that the officers' detention of Mena violated the Fourth Amendment because it was objectively unreasonable to confine her in the converted garage and keep her in handcuffs during the search, id., at 1263-1264. In the Court of Appeals' view, the officers should have released Mena as soon as it became clear that she posed no immediate threat. Id., at 1263. The court additionally held that the questioning of Mena about her immigration status constituted an independent Fourth Amendment violation. Id., at 1264-1266. The Court of Appeals went on to hold that those rights were clearly established at the...

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