Miller v. Idaho State Patrol

Decision Date18 May 2011
Docket NumberNo. 37032.,37032.
Citation252 P.3d 1274,150 Idaho 856
CourtIdaho Supreme Court
Parties Jason MILLER, a single person, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. IDAHO STATE PATROL, Trooper Christopher Yount, Defendants–Appellants, and Jane Doe Yount, Bonner County, Bonner County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Jason Slinger and Jane Doe Slinger, husband and wife, and the marital community comprised thereof, Defendants.

Johnson Law Group, Spokane, Washington, for Appellants. Peter J. Johnson argued.

Phelps & Associates, Spokane, Washington, for Respondent. Douglas D. Phelps argued.

W. JONES, Justice.


Idaho State Trooper Christopher Yount and the Idaho State Police appeal the district court's decision not to grant summary judgment in their favor on Jason Miller's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law alleging that Officer Yount unreasonably catheterized him following an arrest for DUI.1 Because American search-and-seizure law is undeveloped as to when an officer may administer an involuntary warrantless catheterization

on a suspect, Officer Yount was entitled to qualified immunity for the § 1983 claim. Further, Yount did not act with malicious or criminal intent, so he was entitled to immunity from Miller's tort claims under the Idaho Tort Claims Act. There is no genuine issue of material fact supporting Miller's remaining tort claims.


The sparse facts in this case are virtually all undisputed. In May of 2007, a trooper with the Idaho State Police was driving by a gas station in Priest River, Idaho, when he saw Jason Miller, Respondent, staggering around as he entered his car. The officer contacted Idaho State Trooper Christopher Yount, who arrived to see Miller sitting in the driver's seat of his car. Yount observed that Miller's pupils were dilated and requested that he perform some field sobriety tests, which Miller failed.

Yount put Miller under arrest for DUI, after which Yount discovered scissors in Miller's pocket that he used for cleaning a marijuana pipe. Miller also admitted to smoking marijuana "every day." Yount took Miller to a hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a urine test. At the hospital, Miller refused to provide a urine sample, saying "I will not fight you, but I will not give you a sample voluntarily." A registered nurse at the hospital then catheterized Miller at Yount's request and extracted a urine sample. Afterward, Yount found a pipe in Miller's shirt pocket containing methamphetamine residue. Yount also administered a drug-recognition evaluation on Miller at the jail that indicated Miller was under the influence of marijuana and a central-nervous-system stimulant. Miller later pled guilty to felony possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and misdemeanor DUI.

There is no indication that Miller struggled while the hospital nurse inserted the catheter. The record is silent as to how or where the nurse extracted the sample or who was present in the room. There is nothing in the record to indicate whether the urine sample tested positive for any controlled substances. It is also unclear why Yount chose to have Miller catheterized rather than performing a blood draw.

In April of 2008, Miller filed a complaint in this case seeking damages for a number of claims against the Idaho State Police ("ISP") and Yount (collectively "Appellants").2 He first claimed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that the involuntary catheterization

violated his constitutional rights. He next asserted tort claims for assault, battery, and negligence, including that the ISP negligently supervised Yount. Miller also claimed that the ISP would be liable for Yount's actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Appellants moved for summary judgment on all of Miller's state-tort claims under I.R.C.P. 56(c), and separately moved to dismiss Miller's § 1983 claim under I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6). Miller then filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on all of his claims.

The district court ruled on all three motions in a memorandum decision, which it later affirmed in its Memorandum Decision on Appellants' Motion to Reconsider. It refused to dismiss Miller's § 1983 claim, holding that a genuine material fact issue remained as to whether Yount benefited from qualified immunity. The court held that the law is well-established that the police may not unreasonably execute a bodily search on a suspect, but also held that it was for the jury to determine whether it was unreasonable for Yount to catheterize Miller. Upon the parties' stipulation, the district court later entered an order dismissing the § 1983 claim against the ISP and against Yount in his official capacity, leaving only an individual § 1983 claim against Yount. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 2309–10, 105 L.Ed.2d 45, 54–55 (1989) ("[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983."); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037–38, 56 L.Ed.2d 611, 638 (1978) (holding that § 1983 does not permit suits against local governments based solely on an employer-employee relationship).

In addressing Miller's tort claims, the district court held that a factual dispute exists as to whether Yount acted "reasonably" for purposes of Miller's assault, battery, and negligence claims. The court further held that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether Yount had acted maliciously or with criminal intent and therefore was not immune from suit under the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA).

After denying Appellants' motions, the district court granted their request for permissive appeal under I.A.R. 12.3 See I.A.R. 12(b) (allowing district courts to grant permission to appeal from an interlocutory order or judgment). This Court subsequently accepted Appellants' appeal.

On appeal, Appellants contend that the district court should have ruled that Yount had qualified immunity under § 1983 as a matter of law, rather than allowing the jury to determine whether his actions were reasonable. They assert that there was no constitutional violation and that, if there was, the law regarding forced catheterizations

is too unclear to hold Yount liable. They further argue that Yount is immune from Miller's state-tort claims because there is no material issue of fact as to whether he acted maliciously or with criminal intent. Miller counters that Yount violated the Idaho Code's provisions that govern searches of DUI suspects, precluding him from being immune from any of Miller's claims. Neither party requests attorney fees on appeal.

1. Whether Yount has qualified immunity from Miller's claim that he violated the Fourth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
2. Whether Yount is immune from Miller's tort claims under the ITCA.

The district court combined its ruling on Appellants' motion for summary judgment with its ruling on their motion to dismiss. In so doing, the court considered an affidavit and police reports attached to Appellants' motion for summary judgment. The district court therefore converted the matter into a ruling on motions for summary judgment. Glaze v. Deffenbaugh, 144 Idaho 829, 831, 172 P.3d 1104, 1106 (2007) (citing I.R.C.P. 12(b) ).

Normally, a district judge does not generate an appealable order by denying a motion for summary judgment. N. Pac. Ins. Co. v. Mai, 130 Idaho 251, 252–53, 939 P.2d 570, 571–72 (1997) (citing I.A.R. 11(a)(1), 12 ). Because a permissive appeal under I.A.R. 12 from a denial of a motion for summary judgment leads to such an unusual procedural posture, this Court must "rule narrowly and address only the precise question that was framed by the motion and answered by the trial court." Aardema v. U.S. Dairy Sys., Inc., 147 Idaho 785, 789, 215 P.3d 505, 509 (2009) (quoting Winn v. Frasher, 116 Idaho 500, 501, 777 P.2d 722, 723 (1989) ). After this Court accepts a permissive appeal, the case proceeds as if it were an appeal as a matter of right, unless otherwise ordered by this Court. I.A.R. 12(d).

When reviewing the district court's ruling on a summary-judgment motion, this Court applies the same standard used by the district court. Van v. Portneuf Med. Ctr., 147 Idaho 552, 556, 212 P.3d 982, 986 (2009). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." I.R.C.P. 56(c). Disputed facts and reasonable inferences are construed in favor of the non-moving party. Estate of Becker v. Callahan, 140 Idaho 522, 525, 96 P.3d 623, 626 (2004). "If there is no genuine issue of material fact, only a question of law remains, over which this Court exercises free review." Indian Springs LLC v. Indian Springs Land Inv., 147 Idaho 737, 746, 215 P.3d 457, 466 (2009) (quoting Cristo Viene Pentecostal Church v. Paz, 144 Idaho 304, 307, 160 P.3d 743, 746 (2007) ).

Cross-motions for summary judgment do not change the applicable standard of review. McFadden v. Sein, 139 Idaho 921, 923, 88 P.3d 740, 742 (2004) (quoting Intermountain Forest Mgmt., Inc. v. La. Pac. Corp., 136 Idaho 233, 235, 31 P.3d 921, 923 (2001) ). Further, "[t]he fact that both parties move for summary judgment does not in and of itself establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact." Shawver v. Huckleberry Estates, L.L.C., 140 Idaho 354, 360, 93 P.3d 685, 691 (2004).

A. Yount Is Entitled to Qualified Immunity from Miller's Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Because the Law Regarding Forced Catheterizations
Is Unsettled

While the parties do not dispute the facts of this case, the issue of whether forcibly catheterizing a DUI suspect violates his or her constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures is a highly fact-dependent inquiry.4 The slim record...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 cases
  • Arreola v. Scentsy, Inc.
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • 23 Junio 2023
    ...Arreola's alternative constitutional arguments under the nondelegation doctrine and due process. See Miller v. Idaho State Patrol , 150 Idaho 856, 864, 252 P.3d 1274, 1282 (2011) ("The general rule of constitutional avoidance encourages courts to interpret statutes so as to avoid unnecessar......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT