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Brewster v. Beck

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 21, 2017

Lamya Brewster, individually and as class representative, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Charlie Beck, Chief, individual and official capacity; City of Los Angeles, a municipal corporation; City of Los Angeles Police Department, a public entity, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted January 12, 2017 Pasadena, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for No. 5:14-cv-02257-JGB-SP the Central District of California Jesus G. Bernal, District Judge, Presiding

          Donald W. Cook (argued), Los Angeles, California; Barrett S. Litt, Kaye McLane Bednarski & Litt, Pasadena, California; Paul Hoffman and Catherine Sweetser, Schonbrun De Simone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP, Venice, California; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Gabriel S. Dermer (argued) and Adena M. Hopenstand, Deputy City Attorneys; Ronald S. Whitaker, Assistant City Attorney; Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney; Office of the City Attorney, Los Angeles, California; for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Alex Kozinski, M. Margaret McKeown and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Civil Rights

         The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Los Angeles police officers violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights when they impounded her vehicle for 30 days pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 14602.6(a)(1), which authorizes impounding a vehicle when the driver has a suspended license.

         Plaintiff loaned her vehicle to her brother-in-law, who was stopped by police officers and discovered to be driving without a license. When plaintiff, who had a valid driver's license, attempted to recover her vehicle, the Los Angeles Police Department refused to release the vehicle before the 30-day holding period had elapsed.

         The panel held that the 30-day impound of plaintiff's vehicle constituted a seizure that required compliance with the Fourth Amendment. The panel held that the exigency that justified the initial seizure vanished once the vehicle arrived in impound and plaintiff showed up with proof of ownership and a valid driver's license. The panel concluded that appellees provided no justification for the continued impound of plaintiff's vehicle.

          OPINION

          KOZINSKI, Circuit Judge.

         We consider whether a 30-day impound of a vehicle is a "seizure" requiring compliance with the Fourth Amendment.

         BACKGROUND

         Lamya Brewster loaned her vehicle to Yonnie Percy, her brother-in-law. Percy was stopped by Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers who learned that Percy's driver's license was suspended. The officers then seized the vehicle under California Vehicle Code section 14602.6(a)(1), which authorizes impounding a vehicle when the driver has a suspended license. Vehicles ...


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