Williams v. Seals, 030520 FED9, 18-15059

Docket Nº:18-15059
Party Name:PRENTICE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. JONATHON SEALS, Officer #19343; RYAN JOHNSON, Officer #22490, Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: CALLAHAN and CHRISTEN, Circuit Judges, and WU, District Judge. Wu, J, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
Case Date:March 05, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

PRENTICE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant,


JONATHON SEALS, Officer #19343; RYAN JOHNSON, Officer #22490, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 18-15059

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 5, 2020


Argued and Submitted August 15, 2019 Pasadena, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona D.C. No. 2:16-cv-00836-NVW Neil V. Wake, District Judge, Presiding

Before: CALLAHAN and CHRISTEN, Circuit Judges, and WU, [**] District Judge.


Plaintiff-Appellant, Prentice Williams ("Williams"), appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in his action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 brought against two officers of the Tempe Police Department ("Officers"). The underlying criminal charges against Williams were dismissed. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

"Summary judgment is appropriate if 'there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Reed v. Lieurance, 863 F.3d 1196, 1204 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). A district court's order granting summary judgment is reviewed de novo. WildEarth Guardians v. Provencio, 923 F.3d 655, 664 (9th Cir. 2019) (citing Churchill Cty v. Norton, 276 F.3d 1060, 1071 (9th Cir. 2001)). Evidence is viewed "'in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,' to determine 'whether genuine issues of material fact exist.'" McNeil v. Sherwood Sch. Dist. 88J, 918 F.3d 700, 706 (9th Cir. 2019) (quoting George v. Edholm, 752 F.3d 1206, 1214 (9th Cir. 2014)).

Williams alleges that the Officers improperly stopped him at approximately 12:30 am for driving two wheels up onto the sidewalk, and violated his civil rights by arresting him for driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI"). Williams denies that he had consumed alcohol, and denies that he exhibited signs of intoxication.

"An investigatory stop of a vehicle is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment if the officer reasonably suspects that a traffic violation has occurred." United States v. Miranda-Guerena, 445 F.3d 1233, 1236 (9th Cir. 2006). The Officers' observations of Williams' driving onto the sidewalk around 12:30 in the morning, which Williams admits, created reasonable suspicion justifying the Officers stopping Williams.1

If the searching officers have probable cause for the arrest, then there is no violation of a constitutional right, and the officers are entitled to summary judgment. "An arrest without a search warrant . . . [is] valid if the arrest is based on probable cause." United States v. Bernard, 623 F.2d 551, 558-59 (9th Cir. 1979). Probable cause requires that "at the moment of arrest the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the arresting officers 'and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the petitioner had committed or was committing an offense.'" Id. at 559 (quoting Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964)). In applying the Beck standard, the reviewing court "must consider all the facts known to the officers . . . before the arrest." United States v. Martin, 509 F.2d 1211, 1213 (9th Cir. 1975). This is a totality of the circumstances test. United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417 (1981). The determination of whether probable cause existed is an issue of fact to be analyzed separately given each case's unique set of facts. Martin, 509 F.2d at 1213.

Williams refused to take a field sobriety test and was arrested on suspicion of DUI. The Officers' decision to arrest Williams was based, in part, on their observation of his behavior and appearance after he was stopped. According to the Officers, Williams displayed the following signs of intoxication: "(a) after being asked to produce his driver's license, [he] present[ed] a card other than a driver's license; (b) [he] pass[ed] his driver's license twice when looking for the same; (c) [he] fumbl[ed] with documents while looking for his registration; (d) [he had] the smell of intoxicating beverage on his breath; (e) [he was] chewing . . . gum, . . . to mask odors; (f) after exiting the vehicle, [he] us[ed] it for balance; and, (g) [he had] bloodshot and watery eyes."

A blood test taken after he was arrested showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.049%, which is within the legal limit for driving. The district court erred in citing the blood test as supporting probable cause, see Allen v. City of Portland, 73 F.3d 232, 236 (9th Cir. 1995) (holding that information cannot be used to support probable cause unless it was known to the officer at the time of arrest). And because credibility assessments are impermissible at summary judgment, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986), we do not consider whether the blood alcohol test undermined Williams' statement to the Officers that he had not been drinking.

Williams' blanket denial of most of the facts reported by the Officers raised contested issues that prevented the court from relying on the Officers' observations at summary judgment. But the Officers' statements also contained details about Williams' appearance, including his bloodshot eyes, and their perception that he smelled of alcohol. Williams' affidavit states that he did not "smell of intoxication on [his] breath" and asserts that his "eyes were clear and alert," but it does not explain how he was in a position to observe whether his own eyes were bloodshot or whether there was an odor of alcohol around him. See Lowry v. City of San Diego, 858 F.3d 1248, 1256 (9th Cir. 2017) (upholding summary judgment where plaintiff, who had been sleeping in a darkened office, lacked foundation to...

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