550 U.S. 609 (2007), 06-605, Los Angeles County, California v. Rettele

Docket Nº:06-605.
Citation:550 U.S. 609, 127 S.Ct. 1989, 167 L.Ed.2d 974
Party Name:LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, et al. v. Max RETTELE et al.
Case Date:May 21, 2007
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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550 U.S. 609 (2007)

127 S.Ct. 1989, 167 L.Ed.2d 974

LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, et al.

v.

Max RETTELE et al.

No. 06-605.

United States Supreme Court

May 21, 2007

On petition for writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

Respondents filed a 42 U. S. C. §1983 suit, alleging that their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated when Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies, who were executing a valid warrant to search a house but were unaware that the potentially armed suspects being sought had sold the house to respondents and moved out, ordered the unclothed respondents out of bed and required them to stand for a few minutes before allowing them to dress. The District Court granted the defendants summary judgment. In reversing, the Ninth Circuit found that the deputies violated the Fourth Amendment and were not entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable deputy would have stopped the search upon discovering that respondents were of a different race than the suspects and would not have ordered respondents from their bed.

Held:

The deputies did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Officers executing a search warrant may take reasonable action to secure the premises and to ensure their own safety and the efficacy of the search. Upon encountering respondents, the deputies acted reasonably to secure the premises. The presence of one race did not eliminate the possibility that suspects of a different race were in the residence as well. In ordering respondents out of bed, the deputies acted reasonably to ensure their own safety, since blankets and bedding can conceal a weapon and since one of the suspects was known to own a firearm. There is no allegation that the detention was prolonged or that respondents were prevented from dressing any longer than necessary to protect the deputies' safety.

Certiorari granted; 186 Fed. Appx. 765, reversed and remanded.

OPINION

[127 S.Ct. 1990] PER CURIAM.

Deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department obtained a valid warrant to search a house, but they were unaware that the suspects being sought had moved out three months earlier. When the deputies searched the house,

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they found in a bedroom two residents who were of a different race than the suspects. The deputies ordered these innocent residents, who had been sleeping unclothed, out of bed. The deputies required them to stand for a few minutes before allowing them to dress.

The residents brought suit under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983, naming the deputies and other parties and accusing them of violating the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The District Court granted summary judgment to all named defendants. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding both that the deputies violated the Fourth Amendment and that they were not entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable deputy would have stopped the search upon discovering that respondents were of a different race than the suspects and because a reasonable deputy would not have ordered respondents from their bed. We grant the petition for certiorari and reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals by this summary disposition.

I

From September to December 2001, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Dennis Watters investigated a fraud and identity-theft crime ring. There were four suspects of the investigation. One had registered a 9-millimeter Glock handgun. The four suspects were known to be African-Americans.

On December 11, Watters obtained a search warrant for two houses in Lancaster, California, where he believed he could find the suspects. The warrant authorized [127 S.Ct. 1991] him to search the homes and three of the suspects for documents and computer files. In support of the search warrant an affidavit cited various sources showing the suspects resided at respondents' home. The sources included Department of Motor Vehicles reports, mailing address listings, an outstanding warrant, and an Internet telephone directory. In

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this Court respondents do not dispute the validity of the warrant or the means by which it was obtained.

What Watters did not know was that one of the houses (the first to be searched) had been sold in...

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