674 F.3d 456 (5th Cir. 2012), 11-50010, Bishop v. Arcuri

Docket Nº:11-50010.
Citation:674 F.3d 456
Opinion Judge:EDITH BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Lindsey BISHOP; Carolyn Clark, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Tony ARCURI, in his individual capacity; City of San Antonio, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:John D. Castiglione (argued), Drew Michael Gulley, Tyler Ulrich Nims, Kelli G. Sussman, Latham & Watkins, L.L.P., New York City, James C. Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project, Austin, TX, for Plaintiffs-Appellants. Nathan Mark Ralls (argued), Hoblit, Ferguson, Darling, L.L.P., Charles Straith F...
Judge Panel:Before DENNIS, CLEMENT and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:March 09, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 456

674 F.3d 456 (5th Cir. 2012)

Lindsey BISHOP; Carolyn Clark, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Tony ARCURI, in his individual capacity; City of San Antonio, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 11-50010.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

March 9, 2012

Page 457

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 458

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 459

John D. Castiglione (argued), Drew Michael Gulley, Tyler Ulrich Nims, Kelli G. Sussman, Latham & Watkins, L.L.P., New York City, James C. Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project, Austin, TX, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Nathan Mark Ralls (argued), Hoblit, Ferguson, Darling, L.L.P., Charles Straith Frigerio, Trial Atty. (argued), Hector X. Saenz, Law Offices of Charles S. Frigerio, P.C., San Antonio, TX, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Before DENNIS, CLEMENT and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.

EDITH BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge:

Lindsey Bishop and Carolyn Clark (" Appellants" ) appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Tony Arcuri and the City of San Antonio (the " City" ) on their claim, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that San Antonio Police Department (" SAPD" ) officers, led by Arcuri, violated Appellants' Fourth Amendment rights by failing to knock-and-announce their identity and purpose prior to forcibly entering Appellants' home to execute a search warrant. We reverse.

I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

The relevant facts are largely undisputed. On April 27, 2009, a confidential informant told Detective Arcuri that he had purchased methamphetamine from a man named " Randy" at a home in Leon Valley, a small municipality entirely encompassed within the City of San Antonio. The informant further told Arcuri that Randy was allowing others to " cook" methamphetamine at the same house. Arcuri alleges that the informant, whose identity remains confidential, had given him credible information in the past. The following day, Detective Arcuri obtained a warrant to search for methamphetamine at the residence from Magistrate Judge Marion Cavazos.

Before executing the search warrant, Arcuri conducted an investigation of the residence. He determined that: women, not anyone named Randy, paid the taxes and utility bills for the house; the car parked in the driveway was registered to appellant Clark; and there was no history of criminal activity associated with the property or its known residents. Arcuri also surveilled the premises and observed that someone appeared to be at home, but he was not able to determine the identity of anyone inside.

Although his reasons are disputed, Arcuri decided to execute the warrant without knocking and announcing his team's identity and purpose. The decision to make a

Page 460

no-knock entry was approved by Arcuri's supervising sergeant, William Hunt. Around 9:40 p.m., Arcuri and his search team, consisting of seven plain-clothes SAPD detectives and one uniformed Leon Valley officer, forcibly entered the house using a battering ram to knock in the front door. Clark was at the back of the home when the officers came in the front door. Two armed officers approached her and ordered her to lie down on the floor where she was handcuffed. Bishop was in her bedroom undressed and looked out when she heard the commotion. Officers entered her bedroom, gave her a shirt and pants, and waited while she dressed. Bishop was then handcuffed. Both Appellants were questioned regarding their operation of a methamphetamine laboratory. They denied any involvement with illegal drugs. When the officers' initial search failed to uncover any evidence of drugs, a narcotic detection dog was brought in to search the home, but it too found no evidence of drugs. Appellants were cooperative throughout the search. The officers eventually un-cuffed Appellants and departed. The raid lasted a total of approximately an hour and 45 minutes. Appellants were not the subject of any further investigation.

On September 14, 2009, Appellants filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of San Antonio and the nine officers involved in the search of their home, alleging that they were subjected to excessive force, false arrest, and an unreasonable search. The district court dismissed all of Appellants' claims against the individual defendants and all but the unreasonable search claim against the City under Federal Civil Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court then granted Appellants' motion to amend, and they amended their complaint to state a claim against Arcuri for the allegedly unreasonable no-knock search. The City and Arcuri both moved for summary judgment on the unreasonable search claim. In a Memorandum and Recommendation submitted on September 3, 2010, a magistrate judge recommended that the district court deny both motions. The district court rejected the recommendation of the magistrate judge, concluded that the no-knock entry was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and granted summary judgment in favor of both defendants.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This court reviews a grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standards as the district court. Apache Corp. v. W & T Offshore, Inc., 626 F.3d 789, 793 (5th Cir.2010). Summary judgment is appropriate when " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(a). There is no genuine issue for trial " [i]f the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Kipps v. Caillier, 197 F.3d 765, 768 (5th Cir.1999). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Carnaby v. City of Hous., 636 F.3d 183, 187 (5th Cir.2011).

We also review a grant of qualified immunity de novo. Qualified immunity protects public officers from suit if their conduct does not violate any " clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982).

A two-step analysis governs whether public officials are entitled to qualified immunity. First, we must determine whether the facts, either as the plaintiff alleges or as proved without dispute,

Page 461

establish that the officer violated a clearly established constitutional right .... [I]f the plaintiff has alleged a constitutional violation, the court must next determine whether the official's conduct was objectively unreasonable under established law.

Linbrugger v. Abercia, 363 F.3d 537, 540 (5th Cir.2004) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Fourth Amendment Violation

We first address the district court's conclusion that the search of Appellants' home was reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The specific question before this court is whether exigent circumstances justified Arcuri's decision, which was approved by his immediate superior, to enter Appellants' home without knocking and announcing his team's identity and purpose. Because Arcuri has relied almost exclusively on generalizations that are legally inadequate to create exigent circumstances, we conclude that the no-knock entry was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment incorporates the common-law principle that officers must knock and announce their identity and purpose before attempting forcible entry of a dwelling. Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 934, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995). The general knock-and-announce requirement, however, is not " a rigid rule of announcement that ignores countervailing law enforcement interests." Id. Countervailing circumstances may include " a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing [the police] presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by, for example, allowing the destruction of evidence." Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 394, 117 S.Ct. 1416, 137 L.Ed.2d 615 (1997). " The reasonableness of the officer's decision must be evaluated ‘ as of the time [he] entered the [dwelling].’ " Linbrugger, 363 F.3d at 542 (quoting Richards, 520 U.S. at 395, 117 S.Ct. 1416).

There is no dispute that Arcuri's search team entered Appellants' home without knocking and announcing their identity and purpose. Arcuri argues the no-knock entry was justified because of " exigent circumstances." Specifically, Arcuri asserts that: (1) he " held a reasonable suspicion that any methamphetamine located at the premises could be easily and readily destroyed if he announced his team's presence," and (2) his " team's safety was in danger due to the inherent dangers of making an entry to execute a drug warrant." Appellants respond that, even accepting his version of the facts, Arcuri's proffered justifications for the no-knock entry are legally inadequate because they do not rest on any particularized circumstances. We consider each of Arcuri's asserted justifications in turn.

1. Destruction of Evidence

A no-knock entry is permissible under the Fourth Amendment if police have " a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, ... would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by ... allowing the destruction of evidence." Richards, 520 U.S. at 394, 117 S.Ct. 1416. Arcuri argues that the informant tip gave him reason to believe that small quantities of methamphetamine, which could be easily disposed of, were present in the home. He asserts that the disposable nature of methamphetamine, together with the general prevalence of...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP