Manzanares v. Higdon

Decision Date10 August 2009
Docket NumberNo. 07-2156.,07-2156.
Citation575 F.3d 1135
PartiesDanny MANZANARES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Sean HIGDON, an officer of the Albuquerque Police Department, in his individual capacity, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Before TACHA, EBEL, and LUCERO, Circuit Judges.

LUCERO, Circuit Judge.

We are asked to decide whether law enforcement officers may remain in a home absent probable cause when consent to enter is granted but later revoked. We also consider whether the Fourth Amendment permits detention of an individual for the duration of an investigation based on a police hunch that the individual may provide aid to a suspect if allowed to leave police custody. Our jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We reverse and remand for the district court to enter judgment as a matter of law in favor of Danny Manzanares on both of his substantive claims and hold a new trial on damages.

I
A

In the early morning hours of March 16, 2002, Officer Sean Higdon of the Albuquerque Police Department ("APD") received a call from an Albuquerque Police dispatcher regarding an alleged rape.1 Another APD Officer, Jason Morales, had spoken with a Danny Manzanares earlier in the night, and Morales had relayed his belief that Manzanares could help police contact an alleged suspect in the rape, later determined to be Miguel "Rick" Maestas. Officers Higdon and David Saladin went to the Manzanares home to investigate Morales' suspicion. Manzanares himself was not suspected of any crime at that point.

Higdon and Saladin arrived at the Manzanares home at approximately 5:50 a.m.2 They found Manzanares to be polite and cooperative. On answering the door, he promptly invited the officers inside. Manzanares told the officers that he and the suspect, Maestas, worked together and proceeded to provide police the name of the suspect's supervisor. Manzanares confirmed descriptions of the suspect's vehicle and home but told the officers that he did not know the suspect's last name or address. Eventually, Manzanares decided to end the interview and asked the officers to leave his home. When the officers refused, Manzanares became agitated. In response, Higdon handcuffed him. At the later trial, Higdon testified that he did so for safety reasons and out of concern that Manzanares might warn the suspect if released. Higdon could not precisely recall how long Manzanares was handcuffed in his home but estimated that it was a matter of minutes.

Officer Higdon was also asked whether he had an articulable basis to believe Manzanares needed to be handcuffed. Higdon replied, "I was in somebody's house. I don't know anything about this person or what weapons he may have accessible to him in his own house." He further explained, "I felt the need to put him in handcuffs, so I mean, I wouldn't have just put him in handcuffs for no reason." Higdon acknowledged that Manzanares was not suspected of a crime.

After learning that additional investigators were en route to the Manzanares home, Higdon asked Manzanares whether he would prefer to remain in his home until the investigators arrived or wait in the back of a police vehicle. Manzanares opted to remain in the home with the officers, and Higdon removed his handcuffs. Following Sergeant Christine Chester's arrival on the scene, at approximately 8:00 a.m., Manzanares admitted that he knew the suspect's name to be Miguel Maestas, and agreed to guide police to his home. He had at least twice previously denied knowing the suspect's last name or address.

For his cooperation, Manzanares was repaid many times over. Higdon and Saladin handcuffed him again, locking him in the rear seat of their squad car. The officers, with Manzanares in tow, arrived at Maestas' home at 9:11 a.m.3 They left Manzanares handcuffed in the backseat and exited the vehicle. Higdon testified that he did so in the interest of safety and because Manzanares was trying to help his friend, Maestas.4 When Maestas did not answer his door, some officers sought a warrant while others secured the perimeter.

Police remained outside Maestas' home for several hours. All the while, Manzanares was handcuffed and locked in the backseat of the squad car. Police sought no further information from him, and Higdon explained that he continued to detain Manzanares only because he feared that Manzanares might impede the investigation if freed. When Maestas finally exited his house and was taken into custody, Higdon returned Manzanares to his home— around 12:25 p.m. According to Higdon's timeline, Manzanares was detained in handcuffs in the squad car for more than three hours.5

B

Following this encounter, Manzanares brought suit against Higdon under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting two claims based on violations of the Fourth Amendment and a third claim for punitive damages. At the conclusion of Manzanares' case in chief, Higdon moved for judgment as a matter of law, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 50, arguing that his actions were objectively reasonable. The court took Higdon's motion under advisement. On the conclusion of the presentation of his case, Higdon renewed his motion for judgment as a matter of law. Manzanares moved for judgment as a matter of law on all three of his claims. The district court again took the motions under advisement and submitted the case to the jury.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Higdon on all claims. Manzanares then renewed his motion for judgment as a matter of law. Concluding that reasonable inferences could be drawn to support Higdon's theory of the case and the jury verdict, the district court denied Manzanares' motion. Because the jury's verdict for Higdon was undisturbed, the district court denied Higdon's motion as moot. After entry of judgment, Manzanares again renewed his motion for judgment as a matter of law and moved for a new trial, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a), on the basis of his contention that the jury was erroneously instructed. Both motions were summarily denied. Manzanares appeals.

II

Because a motion for judgment as a matter of law presents purely legal arguments, we review a district court's disposition of such a motion de novo. Herrera v. Lufkin Indus., Inc., 474 F.3d 675, 685 (10th Cir.2007). Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate only when the evidence presented at trial does not permit a reasonable jury to find for the non-movant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). It is "warranted only if the evidence points but one way and is susceptible to no reasonable inferences which may support the opposing party's position." Herrera, 474 F.3d at 685 (quotation omitted). "[W]e will not weigh evidence, judge witness credibility, or challenge the factual conclusions of the jury." Brown, 227 F.3d at 1285 (quotation omitted).

A

We consider Manzanares' contention that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on his claim that Higdon violated the Fourth Amendment by refusing to exit the Manzanares home. In doing so, we apply the traditional two-part qualified immunity framework, considering first the existence of a constitutional violation and next whether the law as to that violation was clearly established.6 Weigel v. Broad, 544 F.3d 1143, 1151 (10th Cir. 2008).

Our analysis centers on the critical fact that the encounter at issue occurred in the Manzanares home. Although the Fourth Amendment guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," its foremost concern is the home. Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 115, 126 S.Ct. 1515, 164 L.Ed.2d 208 (2006); United States v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 407 U.S. 297, 313, 92 S.Ct. 2125, 32 L.Ed.2d 752 (1972). Warrantless searches and seizures in the home are presumptively unreasonable. Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551, 559, 124 S.Ct. 1284, 157 L.Ed.2d 1068 (2004); United States v. Gambino-Zavala, 539 F.3d 1221, 1225 (10th Cir.2008). "[E]ven when a felony has been committed and there is probable cause to believe that incriminating evidence will be found within" a home, police may not enter without a warrant absent exigent circumstances. Groh, 540 U.S. at 559, 124 S.Ct. 1284 (quoting Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 587-88, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980)). The sphere of "exigent circumstances" is highly circumscribed. See Randolph, 547 U.S. at 117 n. 6, 126 S.Ct. 1515 (collecting cases).

Despite its fundamental nature, the warrant requirement for entry into a home has a few carefully established exceptions. See Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219, 93 S.Ct. 2041, 36 L.Ed.2d 854 (1973). One such exception, the consensual encounter, does not require a warrant because it is not a search or seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes. Cortez v. McCauley, 478 F.3d 1108, 1115 (10th Cir.2007) (en banc). Such encounters are limited by the scope of consent given. Gates v. Tex. Dep't of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 537 F.3d 404, 426 (5th Cir.2008); United States v. West, 219 F.3d 1171, 1177 (10th Cir.2000); see also Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 251, 111 S.Ct. 1801, 114 L.Ed.2d 297 (1991) ("The standard for measuring the scope of a suspect's consent under the Fourth Amendment is that of `objective' reasonableness— what would the typical reasonable person have understood by the exchange between the officer and the suspect?"). Thus, as soon as an individual has "an objective reason to believe that he is not free to terminate [an encounter]," he is "seized," and the Fourth Amendment is implicated. United States v. Patten, 183 F.3d 1190, 1194 (10th Cir.1999). As an exception to the warrant requirement, we take care to "jealously and carefully draw[]" the boundaries of consent, lest the warrant...

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