Los Angeles County v. Rettele
Supreme Court of the United States
LOS ANGELES COUNTY v. RETTELE
On Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
No. 06-605 Argued: --- Decided: May 21, 2007
Respondents filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit, alleging that their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated when Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies, who were executing a valid warrant to search a house but were unaware that the potentially armed suspects being sought had sold the house to respondents and moved out, ordered the unclothed respondents out of bed and required them to stand for a few minutes before allowing them to dress. The District Court granted the defendants summary judgment. In reversing, the Ninth Circuit found that the deputies violated the Fourth Amendment and were not entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable deputy would have stopped the search upon discovering that respondents were of a different race than the suspects and would not have ordered respondents from their bed.
Held: The deputies did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Officers executing a search warrant may take reasonable action to secure the premises and to ensure their own safety and the efficacy of the search. Upon encountering respondents, the deputies acted reasonably to secure the premises. The presence of one race did not eliminate the possibility that suspects of a different race were in the residence as well. In ordering respondents out of bed, the deputies acted reasonably to ensure their own safety, since blankets and bedding can conceal a weapon and since one of the suspects was known to own a firearm. There is no allegation that the detention was prolonged or that respondents were prevented from dressing any longer than necessary to protect the deputies' safety.
Certiorari granted; 186 Fed. Appx. 765, reversed and remanded.