Sandoval et al v. County of Sonoma et al

Filing 69

ORDER by Judge Thelton E. Henderson denying 62 County Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration and 55 County Defendants' Administrative Motion for Clarification of Order; withdrawing 50 Order on Motions to Dismiss; granting in part and denying in part 20 County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and 27 City Defendants' Motion to Dismiss; and granting 63 County Defendants' Request for Judicial Notice. (Attachments: # 1 Appendix Amended Order on Motions to Dismiss) (tehlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/31/2013)

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1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 5 RAFAEL MATEOS-SANDOVAL and SIMEON AVENDANDO RUIZ, 6 Plaintiffs, 7 v. 8 COUNTY OF SONOMA, et al., NO. C11-5817 TEH ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTIONS TO DISMISS 9 Defendants. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 Presently under consideration are two motions, filed by the County of Sonoma and the 13 City of Santa Rosa, their law enforcement agencies and officials (“County Defendants” and 14 “City Defendants,” respectively), which, taken together, request dismissal of all claims 15 presented in this suit. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in 16 part each motion. 17 18 BACKGROUND 19 This is a suit brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California Civil Code § 52.1 raising 20 challenges to various aspects of Defendants’ enforcement of California Vehicle Code § 21 14602.6, which authorizes the impoundment of a vehicle for thirty days under limited 22 circumstances.1 The present motions address claims raised by the two named plaintiffs in 23 this action – Rafael Mateos-Sandoval, whose vehicle was impounded by County Defendants, 24 and Simeon Avendando Ruiz – whose vehicle was impounded by City Defendants.2 Each 25 Plaintiff raises five claims relating to Defendants’ enforcement of § 14602.6. 26 27 1 Unless otherwise specified, citations to sections of California statutory law are to the 28 Vehicle Code. 2 Mateos-Sandoval and Avendando Ruiz seek to represent a statewide class of drivers. 1 A. California Vehicle Code § 14602.6 2 Section 14602.6(a)(1) provides: 3 Whenever a peace officer determines that a person was driving a vehicle while his or her driving privilege was suspended or revoked, driving a vehicle while his or her driving privilege is restricted pursuant to Section 13352 or 23575 and the vehicle is not equipped with a functioning, certified interlock device, or driving a vehicle without ever having been issued a driver’s license, the peace officer may either immediately arrest that person and cause the removal and seizure of that vehicle or, if the vehicle is involved in a traffic collision, cause the removal and seizure of the vehicle without the necessity of arresting the person. . . . A vehicle so impounded shall be impounded for 30 days. 4 5 6 7 8 9 Within two working days of an impoundment pursuant to § 14602.6(a)(1), the 11 14602.6(a)(2). The vehicle’s owner “shall be provided the opportunity for a storage hearing For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 impounding agency must notify the vehicle’s owner of the impoundment. Cal. Veh. Code § 12 to determine the validity of, or consider any mitigating circumstances attendant to, the 13 storage, in accordance with Section 22852.” Cal. Veh. Code § 14602.6(b). Section 22852 14 sets out the procedure for hearings to “determine the validity of the storage” and provides, 15 among other things, that a “public agency may authorize its own officer or employee to 16 conduct the hearing if the hearing officer is not the same person who directed the storage of 17 the vehicle.” Cal. Veh. Code § 22852(c). 18 B. 19 Plaintiffs allege that, on January 27, 2011, Mateos-Sandoval was driving his GMC Mateos-Sandoval 20 Sierra pickup truck on Santa Rosa avenue when a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department 21 (SCSD) deputy pulled him over. He stopped his truck at a safe and legal location by the 22 street curb in front of a credit union parking lot. The truck was not blocking traffic. 23 The deputy informed Mateos-Sandoval that his truck’s trailer hitch was blocking its 24 license plate and asked to see his driver’s license. When Mateos-Sandoval responded that he 25 had a driver’s license from Mexico, the deputy ordered the impoundment of Mateos26 Sandoval’s truck under § 14602.6, and called for a tow truck. 27 While the deputy and Mateos-Sandoval were still at the scene of the traffic stop, his 28 friend Sonja Oralia Ortiz arrived. Ortiz told the deputy that she had a California driver’s 2 1 license, and Mateos-Sandoval and Ortiz asked the deputy to permit Ortiz to drive the truck 2 away. The deputy denied their request. The tow truck arrived and removed Mateos3 Sandoval’s truck. 4 Mateos-Sandoval alleges that he was not arrested, but he was charged with violating § 5 12500 of the California Vehicle Code, driving without a valid California driver’s license, and 6 § 5201, relating to the proper mounting of license plates. On March 28, 2011, Mateos7 Sandoval appeared in the Superior Court of the County of Sonoma, where he pled guilty to, 8 and was convicted of, the § 12500 charge. The § 5201 charge was dismissed.3 9 On January 28, 2011– the day after his truck was impounded – and again on January 11 to get his truck back. On both occasions, SCSD personnel informed him that he was not For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 31, 2011, Mateos Sandoval went to the SCSD office, where he requested a hearing in order 12 eligible for a tow hearing and refused to schedule one. 13 Later, Mateos-Sandoval received by mail a California Highway Patrol (“CHP”) form 14 180, “Notice of Stored Vehicle.” The form stated, “[u]nder the provisions of Section 22852 15 VC, you have the right to a hearing to determine the validity of this storage.” (Docket No. 16 21, Exhibit A.) The form did not specify why Mateos-Sandoval’s truck was being 17 impounded for thirty days; it informed him only that it “was stored pursuant to the provisions 18 of the California Vehicle Code.” (Docket No. 21, Exhibit A.) 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 The Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART County Defendants’ unopposed request for judicial notice. The Court takes judicial notice of Mateos-Sandoval’s judgment of conviction for violating § 12500. See United States v. Lopez-Solis, 447 F.3d 1201, 1210 (9th Cir. 2006). The Court also takes notice of the existence of the judicial opinions and complaint in the Salazar case, but not their factual content. See Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 690 (9th Cir. 2001). County Defendants’ request is DENIED with respect to the police report and police department records, with the exception of CHP form 180, which is the only document that was incorporated by reference into the complaint. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908-09 (9th Cir. 2003). These documents are improper subjects of judicial notice. See id.; United States v. Perez-Corona, 295 F.3d 996, 1001 at n. 4 (9th Cir. 2002). For purposes of the present motion, the Court treats the documents of which it has taken notice as part of the complaint. See Ritchie, 342 F.3d at 908. County Defendants’ motion to strike the documents attached to Plaintiffs’ Opposition (Docket No. 32) is GRANTED because Plaintiffs do not request judicial notice of them, they are not incorporated by reference in the complaint, and they do not form the basis of Plaintiffs’ claims. See Ritchie, 342 F.3d at 907-08. 3 1 On February 1, 2011 and February 3, 2011, SCSD personnel informed Mateos- 2 Sandoval that the thirty-day impoundment of his truck was required under § 14602.6, even 3 though he had a Mexican driver’s license. Mateos-Sandoval was denied the use of his truck 4 for over thirty days. He seeks recovery for the resulting expenses, and for expenses incurred 5 in his attempts to recover his truck. 6 C. 7 Plaintiff Simeon Avendando Ruiz alleges that on or about September 1, 2011, he was Avendando Ruiz 8 driving his Chevy Silverado pickup truck when he was stopped at a checkpoint by Santa 9 Rosa Police Department (“SRPD”) officers.4 Without asking Avendando Ruiz whether he 11 his truck under § 14602.6. Avendando Ruiz had, in fact, been issued a Mexican driver’s For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 had ever been licensed to drive in any jurisdiction, the officers ordered the impoundment of 12 license and alleges that he would have produced that license had the SRPD officers asked 13 him to do so. Avendando Ruiz’s truck was impounded for thirty days. Avendando Ruiz was 14 not arrested but he was charged with violating § 12500 of the California Vehicle Code, 15 driving without a valid California driver’s license. On October 4, 2011, he appeared in the 16 Superior Court of the County of Sonoma, where he pled nolo contendere to, and was 17 convicted of, the § 12500 charge.5 18 Avendando Ruiz received a CHP form 180 in the mail. On or about September 6, 19 2011, he informed SRPD through his attorney that he had a valid Mexican driver’s license 20 and requested that SRPD release his truck. SRPD refused on the ground that § 14602.6, as 21 interpreted by SRPD, mandated that his truck be impounded for thirty days. 22 4 The vehicle code has since been amended to prohibit the impoundment under § 23 14602.6 of vehicles stopped at sobriety checkpoints based on the fact that their drivers are unlicensed. See Cal. Stats. 2011, c.653 (A.B. 353) § 2 (codified at Cal. Veh. Code § 24 2814.2(c)) (providing that vehicles encountered at sobriety checkpoints that are driven by unlicensed drivers shall be released to a licensed driver or, if that is not possible, removed 25 under § 22651(p)). 26 5 The Court GRANTS City Defendants’ request for judicial notice of the record of Avendando Ruiz’s conviction for violating § 12500(a). See Lopez-Solis, 447 F.3d at 1210 27 (9th Cir. 2006). Their request is DENIED with respect to the police report and police department records. See Perez-Corona, 295 F.3d at 1001 at n. 4; Pina v. Henderson, 752 28 F.2d 47, 50 (2d Cir. 1985). 4 1 Avendando Ruiz alleges that at all times while his truck was impounded, he was ready 2 and able to pay the storage fee and have a person with a California driver’s license drive his 3 truck away from the storage yard. However, Defendants prevented him from doing so based 4 on their policy of treating individuals with Mexican drivers licenses as individuals who have 5 never been issued a driver’s license for purposes of § 14602.6. 6 Avendando Ruiz took possession of his truck after the expiration of the impoundment 7 period by paying the accrued storage fees and an administrative fee charged by SRPD. As a 8 result of the loss of the use of his truck for more than thirty days and his efforts to retrieve it, 9 Avendando Ruiz incurred expenses, which he now seeks to recover. D. The Complaint 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 On December 2, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court presenting claims for 12 relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California Civil Code § 52.1. They seek declaratory and 13 injunctive relief, restitution, and damages on behalf of themselves and a statewide class of 14 individuals who “have had cars seized/impounded for thirty days pursuant to § 14602.6, or 15 may in the future have them so seized/impounded.” (Docket No. 1, at p. 12.). The complaint 16 encompasses five claims, each alleged against all defendants, and a facial challenge to § 17 14602.6. 18 19 LEGAL STANDARD 20 Defendants move to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 21 12(b)(1), for lack of standing and 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim. A complaint must 22 contain “a short and plain statement” showing “the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction” and 23 “that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). A complaint may be dismissed 24 under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) if Plaintiffs do not carry their burden to 25 sufficiently allege subject matter jurisdiction. Dismissal is appropriate under Federal Rule of 26 Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) when a complaint fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be 27 granted.” In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must “accept all material allegations of 28 fact as true and construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” 5 1 Vasquez v. Los Angeles County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). A complaint will 2 survive a 12(b)(6) motion if its “non-conclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences 3 from that content” plausibly suggest a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief. Moss v. U.S. 4 Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 555 U.S. 662 5 (2009)) (internal quotation marks omitted). 6 7 DISCUSSION 8 A. Global arguments for dismissal 9 Defendants make several arguments for dismissal that apply to more than one of 11 arguments for dismissal of each of the five counts set out in the complaint.6 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Plaintiffs’ claims. The Court will address these arguments first, and then turn to Defendants’ 12 1. Monell claims against County Defendants 13 County Defendants move for the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ § 1983 claims against the 14 county and its officers acting in an official capacity, arguing that Plaintiffs have failed to 15 allege plausible facts sufficient to support a claim that their injuries arose out of County 16 Defendants’ customs, practices, or policies. Section 1983 provides for a cause of action 17 against any “person” who, acting under the color of law, subjects another to “the deprivation 18 of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 19 1983. Section 1983 claims against government officials in their official capacities “are really 20 suits against the governmental employer because the employer must pay any damages 21 awarded.” Butler v. Elle, 281 F.3d 1014, 1023 n. 8 (9th Cir. 2002); see also Hafer v. Melo, 22 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991). Under Monell v. Department of Social Services, § 1983 plaintiffs 23 cannot state a claim for municipal liability based on a respondeat superior theory. 436 U.S. 24 658, 691 (1978). However, a municipal government entity may be held liable under § 1983 25 “when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by 26 27 6 City Defendants have joined in County Defendants’ arguments to the extent they are 28 applicable to claims raised against them. 6 1 those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury.” 2 Id. at 694. 3 The longstanding rule in the Ninth Circuit, set out in Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles 4 Police Department, was that “a claim of municipal liability under section 1983 is sufficient 5 to withstand a motion to dismiss ‘even if the claim is based on nothing more than a bare 6 allegation that the individual officers’ conduct conformed to official policy, custom or 7 practice.’” 839 F.2d 621, 624 (9th Cir. 1988), quoting Shah v. County of Los Angeles, 797 8 F.2d 743, 747 (9th Cir. 1986). The Supreme Court, in Leatherman v. Tarrant Narcotics 9 Intelligence and Coordination Unit, cited with approval to Karim-Panahi in rejecting a 11 Panahi has not been overruled, but the Ninth Circuit has recognized that, under the Supreme For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 “heightened pleading standard” for Monell claims. 507 U.S. 163, 165-68 (1993). Karim- 12 Court’s recent pleading jurisprudence, it is no longer clear that, without more, an allegation 13 that an officer’s conduct “conformed to official policy, custom, or practice” continues to be 14 sufficient to state a claim under Monell. See A.E. ex rel. Hernandez v. County of Tulare, 666 15 F.3d 631, 637-38 (9th Cir. 2012); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007); 16 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 17 In Starr v. Baca, the Ninth Circuit attempted to reconcile the apparent inconsistency 18 between the Supreme Court’s decisions in Twombly and Iqbal and other recent cases in 19 which the Court construed Rule 8(a) in a way that would permit more claims to survive a 20 motion to dismiss. 652 F.3d 1202, 1213-16 (9th Cir. 2011). In Starr, the court synthesized 21 the following two-part rule: 22 23 24 25 First, to be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint . . . may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively. Second, the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation. 26 Id. at 1216. 27 Recently, in A.E. ex rel. Hernandez v. County of Tulare, the Ninth Circuit applied the 28 Starr standard to a Monell claim. 666 F.3d at 637-38. The plaintiff in A.E. was a minor who 7 1 was sexually abused while in foster care. He alleged that the county was liable under Monell 2 because the defendants “performed their acts and omissions ‘under the ordinances, 3 regulations, customs, and practices of Defendant COUNTY OF TULARE . . . ’” and 4 “‘maintained or permitted an official policy, custom, or practice of knowingly permitting the 5 occurrence of the type of wrongs’” that were alleged elsewhere in the complaint. Id. at 635 6 (quoting complaint). Applying Starr, the court held that these allegations were insufficient to 7 state a claim, but it directed the district court to grant the plaintiffs leave to amend their 8 complaint to state additional facts showing that the “alleged constitutional violations were 9 carried out pursuant to County policy or custom.” Id. at 637. In the present case, as in A.E., Plaintiffs base their Monell claims on the theory that 11 County Defendants had deliberate customs, policies, or practices that were “the ‘moving For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 force’ behind the constitutional violation [Plaintiffs] suffered.” Galen v. County of Los 13 Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 667 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 694-95). But 14 Plaintiffs’ allegations, in contrast those offered by the plaintiffs in A.E., specify the content 15 of the policies, customs, or practices the execution of which gave rise to Plaintiffs’ 16 Constitutional injuries. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. Plaintiffs allege that County 17 Defendants “routinely enforce” § 14602.6 by: 18 19 20 21 22 seizing and impounding vehicles on the basis that the driver does not have a current, valid California driver’s license, including when the vehicle was not presenting a hazard or a threat to public safety; keeping the vehicle [even though] someone was available to pay the impound fee to date, usually for the 30 day period specified by § 14602.6; seizing and impounding vehicles even though the driver has previously been licensed, whether in California or a foreign jurisdiction; failing and refusing to [provide] a hearing on the justification for impounding the vehicle for 30 days; failing and refusing to provide notice of the reason for impounding the vehicle for 30 days; and, on information and belief, charging an above-cost administrative fee. 23 (Docket No. 1, at p. 4.) These allegations, in contrast those set out by the plaintiffs in A.E., 24 specify the content of the policies, customs, or practices the execution of which gave rise to 25 Plaintiffs’ constitutional injuries. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. The allegations are sufficient 26 to “give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively,” particularly 27 since information relating to the policies, customs, and practices of County Defendants in 28 8 1 enforcing §14602.6 and related statutory sections is likely to be easily available to them. 2 Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. As to Starr’s second prong – whether the allegations “plausibly 3 suggest entitlement to relief” – it is inherently plausible that Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims, 4 which largely are based in the alleged misconstruction of or failure to comply with California 5 statutory law, arose as a result of the County Defendants’ customs, policies, or practices. Id. 6 To the extent that Plaintiffs’ allegations relating to each individual Constitutional claim 7 satisfy Rule 8(a), plaintiffs therefore have pled facts sufficient to state a claim that County 8 Defendants are liable under Monell. 9 Claims based on County Defendants’ enforcement of state law County Defendants argue that the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiffs’ claims for 11 damages against the County of Sonoma, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 2. 12 (“SCSD”), and Sheriff Steve Freitas in his official capacity. Because an official-capacity suit 13 against a state official is really a suit against the official’s office, it “is no different from a 14 suit against the State itself.” Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). 15 For this reason, state officers acting in their official capacities are entitled to sovereign 16 immunity from suits for damages under the Eleventh Amendment. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 17 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); Doe v. Lawrence Livermore Nat’l Lab., 131 F.3d 836, 839 (9th Cir. 18 1997). Sovereign immunity generally does not extend to suits against local government 19 entities because, as in the case of suits for injunctive relief and personal-capacity suits against 20 state officials, “relief is not sought from the state treasury.” Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 21 756-57 (1999). Unless they are considered part of the state for sovereign immunity purposes, 22 local government entities, and officials with “final policymaking authority for the local 23 governmental actor,” may therefore be held liable under § 1983 for constitutional violations 24 carried out pursuant to the locality’s policies and customs. McMillan v. Monroe County, 520 25 U.S. 781, 784-85 (1997); Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 n. 54 (1978). It follows that neither the 26 County nor the SCSD enjoys blanket immunity from suit under the doctrine of state 27 28 9 1 sovereign immunity. See Streit v. County of Los Angeles, 236 F.3d 552, 565 (9th Cir. 2001) 2 (holding that California sheriff’s departments may be separately sued under § 1983).7 3 The more difficult question is whether Sheriff Freitas should be considered part of the 4 state for sovereign immunity purposes – Defendants contend that he should, and Plaintiffs 5 that he should not. Plaintiffs’ allegations against Sheriff Freitas, broadly writ, relate to the 6 setting of policy and procedures governing the county’s investigation of vehicle code 7 violations and enforcement of the vehicle code. In Brewster v. Shasta County, the Ninth 8 Circuit held that California sheriffs act on behalf of the county, not the state, when they 9 investigate crimes, and are therefore not immune from suit under the doctrine of state 11 537 U.S. 814 (2002). Subsequently, in Venegas, the California Supreme Court, expressly For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 sovereign immunity. 275 F.3d 805 (9th Cir. 2001), cert. denied Shasta County v. Brewster, 12 disagreeing with the Ninth Circuit’s analysis and holding in Brewster, held that “California 13 sheriffs act as state officers while performing state law enforcement duties such as 14 investigating possible criminal activity.” 32 Cal. 4th at 830 & 839. 15 Since Venegas, a division has arisen between district courts within the Circuit about 16 which rule to apply. Many district courts have continued to apply the Ninth Circuit rule, 17 holding that sheriffs performing law enforcement functions are county officers. See, e.g., 18 Galati v. County of San Mateo, No. C07-4035, 2008 WL 1886033, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 25, 19 2008); Garcia v. County of Merced, 637 F. Supp. 2d 731, 759-60 (E.D. Cal. 2008); Brown v. 20 County of Kern, No. C06-121, 2008 WL 544565, at *11-12 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 26, 2008); 21 Fontana v. Alpine County, 750 F. Supp. 2d 1148, 1153 (E.D. Cal. 2009); Shoval v. Sobzak, 22 No. C09-1348, 2009 WL 2780155, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 31, 2009); Warner v. County of San 23 Diego, No. C10-1057, 2011 WL 662993, at *4 n. 2 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 14, 2011). Others, 24 however, have applied Venegas and held that sheriffs performing law enforcement functions 25 are officers of the state and therefore immune from suit. See, e.g., Walker v. County of Santa 26 7 Likewise, sheriffs’ deputies are not immune from suit under the doctrine of state 27 sovereign immunity. See Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, 32 Cal. 4th 820, 839 (2004) (“the parties have correctly assumed that the sheriff’s deputies would not be shielded by the 28 sheriff’s own state agent immunity, and are ‘persons’ who may be held liable for damages under section 1983.”) 10 1 Clara, No. C04-2211, 2005 WL 2437037, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2005); Comm. for 2 Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County v. Sonoma County, No. C08-4220, 2010 WL 2465030, 3 at *3 (N.D. Cal. June 11, 2010); Johnston v. County of Sonoma, No. C10-3592, 2011 WL 4 855934, at *3 (N.D. Cal. March 9, 2011). The courts that have continued to apply the Ninth 5 Circuit rule have reasoned that municipal liability under § 1983 is a question of federal law, 6 and that, despite what the California Supreme Court may have said, they remain bound by 7 Brewster. See, e.g., Fontana, 750 F. Supp. 2d at 1153 (following Brewster because “the 8 Ninth Circuit does not have to follow the determinations of the California courts in § 1983 9 lawsuits”); Galati, 2008 WL 1886033, at *6 (holding that “on this issue of federal law, the 11 adopted the California Supreme Court’s rule have concluded that the Venegas decision is For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Court is bound by the decision of the Ninth Circuit in Brewster”). Those courts that have 12 correct, and by implication, that the Ninth Circuit got it wrong in Brewster. See, e.g., Comm. 13 for Immigrant Rights, 2010 WL 2465030, at *3 (holding that Venegas “represents the correct 14 statement of the function of California sheriffs”); Walker, 2005 WL 2437037, at *4 (“The 15 California Supreme Court’s decision comports with this court’s understanding of the function 16 of California sheriffs.”) 17 The determination whether an official acts on behalf of a state or a county is 18 “dependant on the definition of the official’s functions under relevant state law.” McMillan, 19 520 U.S. at 786. This does not mean, however, that federal courts are bound by state court 20 interpretations of state law in this context. In determining whether a local officer or entity is 21 performing a state function, a federal court must conduct its own independent analysis of 22 state law. Id.; see also Streit, 236 F.3d at 563. 23 In Brewster, the Ninth Circuit conducted an analysis of California state law and 24 concluded that California sheriffs act on behalf of the county, not the state, when performing 25 law enforcement functions. 275 F.3d 805. The court based this conclusion on the following 26 factors: money judgments against sheriffs are satisfied out of county, not state, funds; “the 27 California Constitution clearly identifies the sheriff as a county officer”; “California sheriffs 28 are elected county officers”; “California sheriffs are only obligated to attend courts within 11 1 their respective counties”; impeachment proceedings against a sheriff are initiated by a 2 county grand jury; county boards of supervisors exercise authority over the sheriff; and the 3 funding for California sheriffs’ departments, including funding for the enforcement of state 4 criminal laws, comes from the county, not the state. 275 F.3d at 807-12. The dissenters in 5 Venegas also concluded, based on the same provisions, that sheriffs act on behalf of counties, 6 not the state, when they enforce state law. 32 Cal. 4th at 851-62 (Kennard, J. and Werdegar, 7 J., dissenting in separate opinions). 8 Venegas does not provide a basis upon which this Court may reach a conclusion that 9 is contrary to the Ninth Circuit’s holding in Brewster. There is no indication that the Ninth 11 considered and rejected the reasoning of the California cases upon which the majority in For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Circuit’s opinion in Brewster turned on California decisional law; in fact, the Brewster court 12 Venegas based its analysis. 275 F.3d at 809, 811; see also Venegas, 32 Cal. 4th at 830-35. 13 The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, recently re-affirmed the rule that a published decision of a 14 Ninth Circuit panel must be followed by panels and district courts within the Circuit “unless 15 and until overruled by a body competent to do so.” Gonzalez v. Arizona, 677 F.3d 383, 390 16 n. 4 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc); see also Streit, 236 F.3d at 563. This Court lacks that 17 particular competence, and therefore denies the motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ official-capacity 18 claims against Sheriff Freitas. 19 3. 20 County Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs’ personal-capacity claims against Claims against Sheriff Freitas in his personal capacity 21 Sheriff Freitas on the ground that their allegations against him are conclusory. A supervisor 22 can be held liable in his personal capacity under § 1983 “for his own culpable action or 23 inaction in the training, supervision, or control of his subordinates; for his acquiescence in 24 the constitutional deprivation . . . ; or for conduct that showed a reckless or callous 25 indifference to the rights of others.” Watkins v. City of Oakland, 145 F.3d 1087, 1093 (9th 26 Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, because there is no 27 respondeat superior liability under § 1983, “a plaintiff must plead that each government28 12 1 official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has violated the 2 Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675. 3 In the present case, Plaintiffs allege only that Freitas is “the Sheriff of Sonoma 4 County, and the SCSD policymaker” and that he “is responsible for enforcing SCSD policies 5 on the interpretation and/or application of Cal. Veh. Code 14602.6” and “has ratified or 6 approved of the unconstitutional acts complained of herein.” (Docket No. 1, at ¶ 9.) 7 Plaintiffs fail to allege the specific policies interpreting §14602.6 for which Freitas is 8 responsible. See Hydrick v. Hunter, 669 F.3d 937, 942 (9th Cir. 2012) (holding that 9 allegation of a specific policy for which a personal-capacity defendant is responsible is 11 approved the unconstitutional acts alleged in the complaint is likewise conclusory; plaintiffs For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 necessary to survive a 12(b)(6) motion). Plaintiffs’ allegation that Freitas ratified or 12 have not alleged any facts showing that Freitas was aware of the impoundment of Mateos13 Sandoval’s truck and his attempts to reclaim it, much less that he personally approved of the 14 actions of his subordinates. See id. (holding that “[e]ven under a ‘deliberate indifference’ 15 theory of individual liability, the Plaintiffs must still allege sufficient facts to plausibly 16 establish the defendant’s ‘knowledge of’ and ‘acquiescence in’ the unconstitutional conduct 17 of his subordinates”). In short, Plaintiffs’ conclusory allegations related to Freitas are 18 insufficient to state a claim for individual liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See id. The 19 Court will therefore grant dismissal of Plaintiffs’ personal-capacity claims against Freitas 20 without prejudice.8 21 4. Claims by Avendando Ruiz against City Defendants 22 City Defendants argue that some or all of Avendando Ruiz’s claims against them are 23 barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).9 In Heck, the Court held that a claim 24 25 8 County Defendants also argue that Freitas is entitled to qualified immunity. Since the Court dismisses Plantiffs’ personal-capacity claims against Freitas based on the 26 conclusory nature of their allegations against him, this alternative argument need not be addressed now. 27 9 It is unclear from City Defendants’ papers which of Avendando Ruiz’s claims they 28 believe are barred by Heck. At oral argument, they asserted that Heck barred all of his claims against them. 13 1 brought in a civil suit must be dismissed if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff on that claim 2 would “necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence,” if that conviction or 3 sentence had not already been invalidated. Id. at 487. City Defendants’ argument appears to 4 be that a judgment in favor of Avendando Ruiz would necessarily imply the invalidity of this 5 conviction under § 12500(a) for driving without a valid California driver’s license, since the 6 California Vehicle Code authorizes the impoundment of vehicles driven in violation of § 7 12500(a) and sets out the procedures for challenging an impoundment. This argument makes 8 no sense. Plaintiffs’ claims challenge the constitutionality of City Defendants’ impoundment 9 of Avendando Ruiz’s truck, the procedures they provided to him for contesting the 11 law authorizes a procedure does not, in and of itself, render the procedure constitutional. See For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 impoundment, and the fee he was required to pay to retrieve his truck. That state statutory 12 United States v. Cervantes, No. 09-50521, __F.3d__, 2012 WL 5951618, at *6 (9th Cir. Nov. 13 28, 2012) (observing that “[t]he fact that an impoundment complies with a state statute or 14 police policy, by itself, is insufficient to justify an impoundment” under federal constitutional 15 law); Calero-Toledo v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U.S. 663, 668 n. 5 (1974) (“[T]here 16 cannot exist under the American flag any governmental authority untrammeled by the 17 requirements of due process”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Therefore, 18 Avendando Ruiz’s § 12500(a) conviction would not be undermined by a ruling in Plaintiffs’ 19 favor on any of their claims. The Heck bar does not apply. 20 5. 21 Plaintiffs allege that § 14602.6 is unconstitutional on its face, and they request Requests for declaratory and injunctive relief 22 declaratory relief and an injunction preventing its enforcement. County Defendants, citing 23 Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 105, argue that Plaintiffs do not have standing to seek 24 prospective relief. Under Lyons, plaintiffs seeking prospective relief must demonstrate a 25 realistic likelihood that there will be a repetition of the alleged past violation of constitutional 26 rights. Id. at 109. In determining whether such a realistic likelihood exists, courts must 27 assume that plaintiffs “‘will conduct their activities within the law so as to avoid prosecution 28 14 1 and conviction as well as exposure to the challenged course of conduct. . . .’” Id. at 102 2 (quoting O’Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 497 (1974)). 3 County Defendants point out that Plaintiffs’ standing to pursue their requests for 4 prospective relief must be based on an allegation that § 14602.6 will be applied to them in the 5 future. By its terms, § 14602.6 applies only to individuals who are operating their vehicles in 6 violation of California law. Plaintiffs have not alleged any facts suggesting that they will 7 continue to operate their trucks illegally, and the Court must assume that they will conform 8 their future conduct to the law. Id. Therefore, Plaintiffs have not adequately pled the actual 9 controversy that is required for standing to pursue their claims for prospective relief. See id. 11 satisfy the case-or-controversy requirement for standing when threat of future harm was For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 at 104; see also Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 15 (1998) (holding that plaintiff did not 12 contingent on “violating the law, getting caught, and being convicted”). The Court will 13 dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief without prejudice. 14 6. 15 County Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs’ state-law claims for damages on the State-law claims for damages 16 ground that they have failed to adequately allege compliance with the Government Tort 17 Claims Act, Cal. Gov’t Code § 810, et. seq. The Act provides, in pertinent part, that “no suit 18 for money or damages may be brought against a public entity on a cause of action for which 19 a claim is required to be presented . . . until a written claim therefor has been presented to the 20 public entity and has been acted upon by the board, or has been deemed to have been rejected 21 by the board . . .” Cal. Gov’t Code § 945.4. Plaintiffs’ state-law claims, which are brought 22 under California Civil Code § 52.1, are subject to this requirement. Gatto v. County of 23 Sonoma, 98 Cal. App. 4th 744, 763 (2002). Hence, to state a claim against a public entity or 24 a public employee acting within the scope of employment, plaintiffs must either allege 25 compliance with the Act or that such compliance should be excused. California v. Superior 26 Ct. (Bodde), 32 Cal. 4th 1234, 1239 (2004). Plaintiffs do not oppose dismissal of their state27 law claims for failure to properly allege compliance with the Act, so long as dismissal is with 28 15 1 leave to amend. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss Plaintiffs’ state-law claims without 2 prejudice. 3 7. Claims by Avendando Ruiz against County Defendants and by MateosSandoval against City Defendants 4 County Defendants argue that Avendando Ruiz has failed to state a claim against them 5 because he does not allege that he suffered any harm resulting from actions taken by them, as 6 opposed to City Defendants. Similarly, the complaint contains no allegation from which a 7 reasonable inference might be drawn that City Defendants’ conduct resulted in harm to 8 Mateos-Sandoval. Avendando Ruiz’s claims against County Defendants and Mateos9 Sandoval’s claims against City Defendants are therefore dismissed without prejudice. See Hunt v. County of Orange, 672 F.3d 606, 617 (9th Cir. 2012) (a court may sua sponte dismiss 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) “when it is clear that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon 12 which relief may be granted”). 13 14 B. Arguments for dismissal of specific claims 15 Having addressed all of Defendants’ arguments for dismissal that apply to multiple 16 claims, the Court now turns to the specific claims set out in the complaint. Plaintiffs’ 17 complaint encompasses five separate counts, each count alleged against all defendants. 18 These are: (1) unlawful seizure and impoundment of Plaintiffs’ vehicles in violation of the 19 Fourth Amendment; (2) uncompensated taking of Plaintiffs’ vehicles in violation of the Fifth 20 Amendment; (3) deprivation of due process with regard to the storage hearing; (4) 21 deprivation of due process by seizing the vehicles as punishment for a criminal violation; and 22 (5) deprivation of due process by imposing a fee in excess of the administrative costs 23 associated with the seizure and impoundment. County Defendants urge the Court to dismiss 24 each count for failure to state a claim. City Defendants join County Defendants’ arguments 25 and request dismissal of all the claims, but do not argue any specific basis for dismissal of 26 counts one, four, and five beyond their Heck argument, which is addressed above. 27 1. Unlawful seizure and impoundment of Plaintiffs’ trucks 28 16 1 In Count One of the complaint, Plaintiffs claim that the seizure of their trucks violated 2 the Fourth Amendment because, at the time of impoundment, neither truck was impeding 3 traffic, threatening public safety, or in a location where it would be susceptible to vandalism. 4 Mateos-Sandoval additionally alleges that a licensed California driver was present who could 5 have driven his truck away. 6 The impoundment of a vehicle is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and 7 therefore must be reasonable. See Miranda v. City of Cornelius, 429 F.3d 858, 864 (9th Cir. 8 2005); Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U.S. 56, 61(1992). Warrantless seizures are “per se 9 unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment – subject only to a few specifically established 11 2001) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In their motion to dismiss, County For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 and well delineated exceptions.” United States v. Hawkins, 249 F.3d 867, 872 (9th Cir. 12 Defendants argue that two exceptions to the warrant requirement apply. They first contend 13 that the impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s truck constituted a valid administrative penalty, 14 and second, that it comported with the community caretaking doctrine. 15 16 a. Impoundment as administrative penalty County Defendants argue that their thirty-day impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s 17 truck under § 14602.6 constituted a facially valid administrative penalty, and as such, was 18 reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiffs argue that, regardless of whether the 19 provision is facially valid, § 14602.6 did not authorize the thirty-day impoundment of 20 Mateos-Sandoval’s truck. 21 Section 14602.6 permits peace officers to impound for thirty days vehicles driven by 22 three categories of drivers: (1) those whose driving privilege has been suspended or revoked, 23 (2) those who have been convicted of driving under the influence and who are driving a 24 vehicle that is not equipped with a required ignition interlock device, and (3) those who are 25 “driving a vehicle without ever having been issued a driver’s license.” Cal. Veh. Code § 26 14602.6(a)(1). County Defendants argue that the Court should read the third category of 27 drivers to encompass individuals who have “been issued a driver’s license” by a jurisdiction 28 outside of California. Plaintiffs observe that, on its face, the third category only includes 17 1 drivers who have never “been issued a driver’s license,” and argue that it therefore cannot be 2 invoked as authorization for the impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s truck. 3 In interpreting California statutes, federal courts apply California rules of statutory 4 construction. Turnacliff v. Westly, 546 F.3d 1113, 1117 (9th Cir. 2008). To ascertain the 5 meaning of a statute, California courts first “look to the intent of the Legislature as expressed 6 by the actual words of the statute” because “it is the language of the statute itself that has 7 successfully braved the legislative gauntlet.” Watash Prop. Mgmt. v. Degrate, 35 Cal. 4th 8 1111, 1117 (2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). If a statute’s language is 9 “clear and unambiguous, there is no need for construction, and courts should not indulge in 11 omitted); see also California Ins. Guar. Ass’n v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd., 128 Cal. App. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 it.” People v. Belleci, 24 Cal. 3d 879, 884 (1979) (internal quotation marks and citation 12 4th 307, 312 (2005). California courts give statutory language “its usual, ordinary import,” 13 construing statutory provisions in context and keeping in mind the statute’s purpose. 14 Dyna-Med, Inc. v. Fair Emp’t & Housing Comm’n, 43 Cal. 3d 1379, 1387 (1987). To the 15 extent possible, “statutes or statutory sections relating to the same subject must be 16 harmonized, both internally and with each other.” Id. A court may not resort to extrinsic 17 sources, such as legislative history, to determine the Legislature’s intent unless an 18 interpretation based on a provision’s unambiguous language and statutory context would 19 inevitably frustrate the legislation’s manifest purpose or lead to absurd results. See Id.; 20 Kavanaugh v. West Sonoma County Union High Sch. Dist., 29 Cal. 4th 911, 924 (2003). 21 The language of the provision at issue here is unambiguous: it permits the 22 impoundment for thirty days of vehicles driven by individuals who are “driving a vehicle 23 without ever having been issued a driver’s license.” Cal. Veh. Code § 14602.6(a)(1). The 24 section’s plain meaning is confirmed by reference to the Vehicle Code’s definition of 25 “driver’s license”: “a valid license to drive . . . under this code or by a foreign jurisdiction.” 26 Cal. Veh. Code § 310. This definition governs the construction of § 14602.6 and is binding 27 on the Court. See Cal. Veh. Code § 100 (providing that “[u]nless the provision or context 28 otherwise requires” the definitions contained in the Vehicle Code “shall govern [its] 18 1 construction”); Curle v. Superior Court, 24 Cal. 4th 1057, 1063 (2001) (“If the Legislature 2 has provided an express definition of a term, that definition ordinarily is binding on the 3 courts.”). The definition of “driver’s license” in § 310 confirms that the Legislature 4 intended § 14602.6 to apply to individuals who are “driving a vehicle without ever having 5 been issued [a valid license to drive . . . under the California Vehicle Code or by a foreign 6 jurisdiction]” (emphasis added).10 Since Mateos-Sandoval plausibly alleges that, before his 7 truck was impounded, he had “been issued a driver’s license” by a foreign jurisdiction, 8 County Defendants cannot invoke § 14602.6 to justify their impoundment of his truck.11 9 Statutory context sheds light on the Legislature’s intent in authorizing the thirty-day 11 in any jurisdiction. As a California Court of Appeal has observed, § 14602.6 “demonstrates a For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 impoundment of vehicles driven by individuals who have never been issued a driver’s license 12 legislative effort to make a distinction designed to reduce accidents by keeping the most 13 dangerous drivers off the road.” Alviso v. Sonoma County Sheriff’s Dept., 186 Cal. App. 4th 14 198, 207 (2010). Driving by individuals whose licenses have been suspended or revoked, or 15 who have been convicted of driving under the influence and do not have a legally required 16 ignition interlock device, poses an obvious public safety hazard, as does unlawful driving by 17 individuals who have never been licensed to drive. These same public safety concerns are 18 not implicated when individuals with out-of-state or foreign licenses take the wheel. 19 The existence of a separate provision in the California Vehicle Code authorizing the 20 impoundment of vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers further confirms that the Legislature 21 22 10 24 11 Vehicle Code § 325 defines “foreign jurisdiction” as “any other state, the District of Columbia, territories or possessions of the United States, and foreign states, provinces, or 23 countries.” 25 26 27 28 Interpreting § 14602.6(a) as applying to any individual who has not been issued a California driver’s license, as opposed to a license by any jurisdiction, would lead to anomalous results. On the face of § 14602.6(a), there is no basis for drawing a distinction between resident and non-resident drivers. The Vehicle Code exempts from the purview of § 12500 (prohibiting driving without a valid California driver’s license) individuals who are not California residents and are licensed to drive in other states or countries. Cal. Veh. Code § 12502(a)(1). Residency is defined as “a person’s state of domicile.” Id. If the statutory section read “driving a vehicle without ever having been issued a California driver’s license,” it would authorize the thirty-day impoundment of a vehicle driven by a California non-resident who was not violating § 12500. 19 1 intended § 14602.6 to apply only to a subset of unlicensed drivers whose driving raises 2 particular public safety concerns. Section 22651(p) – which was enacted prior to § 14602.6 3 and was amended by the bill in which § 14602.6 was enacted – permits a peace officer to 4 “remove” a vehicle “when the peace officer issues the driver of the vehicle a notice to appear 5 for a violation of § 12500 [driving without a valid California Driver’s license]” among other 6 offenses.12 1994 Stat., ch. 1221, § 16. In contrast to § 14602.6(a), § 22651(p) permits the 7 release of the vehicle to a licensed driver at any time. The contrast between the language of 8 the two provisions demonstrates that, had the Legislature intended § 14602.6(a) to be 9 applicable to all individuals who are driving without valid California driver’s licenses, it 11 instead to use the phrase “without ever having been issued a driver’s license” in § 14602.6 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 would have made reference to § 12500, as it did in § 22651(p).13 That the Legislature chose 12 indicates that it intended the preexisting § 22651(p) to govern the removal of vehicles driven 13 by individuals with expired licenses and licenses issued by jurisdictions outside of California, 14 and to limit the application of the new § 14602.6 to drivers who have never been issued a 15 driver’s license in any jurisdiction.14 16 County Defendants argue that to determine the Legislature’s intent in enacting § 17 14602.6, the Court should examine its legislative history. Because the provision’s plain 18 language meaning is clear, is confirmed by its statutory context, and does not frustrate 19 manifest legislative intent or lead to absurd results, examination of the provision’s legislative 20 history is not warranted. See Kavanaugh, 29 Cal. 4th at 924; Belleci, 24 Cal. 3d at 884. But 21 12 The discretion afforded to officers to impound a vehicle under § 22651(p) must be 22 exercised in accordance with the community caretaking doctrine. See People v. Benites, 9 Cal. App. 4th 309, 327 (1992); People v. Williams, 145 Cal. App. 4th 756 (2006) (section 23 22651(h)(1)). 24 13 28 14 The phrase “unlicensed driver” is used in various sections of the Vehicle Code to describe drivers who are not in possession of valid California driver’s licenses, in violation of 25 § 12500. See, e.g., Cal. Veh. Code §§ 40000.11; 2814.2(c); 14607.8. The Legislature’s choice to use the phrase “without ever having been issued a driver’s license” rather than 26 “unlicensed driver” in § 14602.6(a)(1) further demonstrates its intention that the provision apply to a particular subset of unlicensed drivers – those who have never been issued a 27 license in any jurisdiction. County Defendants do not contend that § 14602.6 authorizes the impoundment of vehicles driven by individuals with expired California drivers’ licenses. 20 1 even if it were proper to examine the legislative history of § 14602.6, the exercise would be 2 of little help to County Defendants. They have not pointed to any document in the legislative 3 history of § 14602.6(a)(1) that sheds light on the Legislature’s reasons for making the thirty4 day impoundment period apply to individuals who had never been issued a driver’s license. 5 Nor have they identified any reference to individuals driving on foreign or out-of-state 6 licenses. 7 The documents to which County Defendants have directed the Court’s attention do, 8 however, confirm that § 14602.6 was enacted for the purpose of keeping particularly 9 dangerous drivers off the road. Section 14602.6 was added to the California Vehicle Code 11 urging him to sign SB 1758, the bill’s author, Senator Quinten L. Kopp, stated, “SB 1758 is a For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 by chapter 1221, § 13 of the Statutes of 1994 (“SB 1758”).15 In a letter to the Governor 12 measure designed to crack down on persons who defy the law by operating vehicles with 13 suspended or revoked licenses,” and in a statement to the Senate in support of the bill, 14 Senator Kopp referenced a December 1990 Department of Motor Vehicles study showing 15 that disqualified drivers were disproportionately involved in fatal accidents.16 Letter from 16 Sen. Quintin L. Kopp to Gov. Pete Wilson (Sept. 7, 1994); Author’s Statement, Floor 17 Analysis of Sen. Bill no. 1758 (1993-94 Reg. Sess.), as amended Aug. 8, 1994, at p. 4; see 18 also California Highway Patrol, Enrolled Bill Report, SB 1758 (1993-94 Reg. Sess.), as 19 amended August 29, 1994, at p. 3.17 20 15 County Defendants cite to Vehicle Code § 14607.4(f) as evidence of the 21 Legislature’s intent in enacting SB 1758, but that provision was enacted as part of a different bill, AB 3148, 1994 Leg., 1993-94 Reg. Sess. (Cal. 1994). 22 16 SB 1758 implemented several recommendations made this study, the aim of which 23 was to identify and evaluate mechanisms for deterring driving by individuals whose licenses had been suspended or revoked, particularly as a result of convictions for driving under the 24 influence. See California Department of Motor Vehicles, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Pilot Project to Better Control Disqualified Drivers (December 1990). The 25 DMV study suggested increased use of impoundment as a means to “remove suspension violators from the road and deter would-be violators from driving”; it made no mention of 26 individuals driving with out-of-state or foreign licenses. Id. at 106. 27 17 County Defendants point out that, as originally enacted, the provision at issue in this case read “without ever having been issued a license.” The word “driver’s” was added by 28 Assembly Bill 360 in 2001. See AB 360, Ch. 480, § 1 (Oct. 4, 2001). The amendment appears to have been purely technical in nature: the legislative history of AB 360 is devoid of 21 1 Taking as true Mateos-Sandoval’s allegation that he had a Mexican driver’s license, 2 the impoundment of his truck was not authorized by § 14602.6. County Defendants therefore 3 cannot justify the thirty-day impoundment of his truck by reference to § 14602.6, and the 4 Court may not decide whether the provision is facially valid as an administrative penalty. 5 See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975). The impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s 6 truck was lawful only if it was justified by community caretaking concerns.18 b. 7 8 Impoundment under the community caretaking doctrine County Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim against them 9 because the impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s truck was justified by community 11 where necessary to ensure that the location or operation of vehicles does not jeopardize the For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 caretaking concerns. The community caretaking doctrine “allows the police to impound 12 public safety.” Miranda, 429 F.3d at 860. Police may impound a vehicle under the 13 community caretaking doctrine if the vehicle presents a traffic hazard or public safety 14 concern and the driver cannot lawfully operate the vehicle in order to move it to a safe 15 location. Id. at 865. In Miranda, the Ninth Circuit held that the impoundment of a vehicle 16 from its owners’ driveway after a police officer had observed a licensed driver teaching his 17 unlicensed wife how to drive was not justified by the community caretaking doctrine. Id. 18 The Court reasoned that, even when the driver of a vehicle is unlicensed, “[a]n officer cannot 19 reasonably order an impoundment in situations where the location of the vehicle does not 20 any reference to the Legislature’s reasons for adding the word “driver’s” to § 14602.6(a)(1). 21 In the statute as originally enacted, the word “license” obviously referred to driver’s licenses and not to dog licenses or liquor licenses. As County Defendants acknowledge, the 2001 22 amendment did not in any way alter the provision’s meaning. 23 24 25 26 27 28 18 County Defendants appear to assume that if the impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s vehicle was carried out in accordance with § 14602.6, they would not need to show that the impoundment otherwise comported with the Fourth Amendment. However, as the Ninth Circuit has observed, “the decision to impound pursuant to the authority of a city ordinance or state statute does not, in and of itself, determine the reasonableness of the seizure under the Fourth Amendment.” Miranda, 429 F. 3d at 864. The authority to impound a vehicle under § 14602.6 is discretionary. Cal. Highway Patrol v. Superior Court, 162 Cal. App. 4th 1144, 1148 (2008) (“If an officer decides not to impound a car under the discretionary authority provided by section 14602.6(a)(1), it is not ‘so impounded’ and therefore the thirtyday provision is inapplicable.”). The discretion to order the seizure of a vehicle under state law is confined by the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. See United States v. Caseres, 533 F.3d 1064, 1074-75 (9th Cir. 2008); Williams, 145 Cal. App. 4th at 761-63. 22 1 create any need for the police to protect the vehicle or to avoid a hazard to other drivers.” Id. 2 at 866. Rather, “the decision to impound a vehicle after the driver has violated a vehicle 3 regulation must consider the location of the vehicle, and whether the vehicle was actually 4 ‘impeding traffic or threatening public safety and convenience.’” Id. at 865 (quoting South 5 Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 369 (1976)). 6 Similarly, in United States v. Caseres, the court held that there was no community 7 caretaking rationale for the impoundment of a vehicle that was legally parked on a residential 8 street two blocks from the driver’s home and was not posing a hazard or impediment to other 9 traffic, even though the vehicle’s driver had a suspended license. 533 F.3d at 1075. The 11 unlawful driving is inconsistent with the community caretaking function. Id. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 court reasoned that the rationale of impounding a vehicle for the purpose of deterring 12 Applying Miranda and Caseres, the Ninth Circuit recently held in Cervantes that the 13 community caretaking exception did not justify the impoundment of a vehicle that had been 14 “appropriately pulled to the curb” when stopped in a residential neighborhood that was not 15 near the driver’s home. 2012 WL 5951618, at *6. The court rejected the Government’s 16 attempt to justify the impoundment by citing to § 14602.6 and the local police department’s 17 impoundment policy, noting that it was not clear that the officers complied with § 14602.6, 18 because at the time the vehicle was impounded, its driver had not yet been placed under 19 arrest. Id. The court further observed that, even if the officers had complied with § 14602.6, 20 compliance with state law and local policy does not alone justify impoundment under the 21 community caretaking doctrine. Id. 22 County Defendants argue that the impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s vehicle was 23 justified on community caretaking grounds because “he does not allege that he could have 24 left his vehicle legally parked where he pulled over during the traffic stop.”19 (Docket No. 25 19 County Defendants also argue that the impoundment was permissible under the 26 community caretaking doctrine because Mateos-Sandoval left his work tools in the back of his truck. Mateos-Sandoval’s tools are nowhere mentioned in the complaint, and so cannot 27 form a basis for granting a motion to dismiss. See supra n. 3. Moreover, there is no indication that Mateos-Sandoval’s truck would have remained parked in a public location 28 had County Defendants not impounded it: Mateos-Sandoval was not taken into custody, and so could have stayed with his tools, and Mateos-Sandoval’s friend, a licensed California 23 1 20, at p. 15-16.) However, the complaint states that Mateos-Sandoval’s vehicle was “stopped 2 at the Santa Rosa curb in a safe and legal location, not blocking traffic, directly in front of a 3 Redwood Credit Union car lot.” (Docket No. 1, at ¶ 15.) It is not too great a leap to infer 4 from this allegation that Mateos-Sandoval’s truck was legally parked. Moreover, County 5 Defendants’ assumption that Mateos-Sandoval would have been required to leave his truck at 6 the site of the stop is unfounded: his friend Ortiz, who had a valid California driver’s license, 7 was present and had offered to drive his truck away. County Defendants have not proffered, 8 and the Court cannot discern, a community caretaking function that would be served by the 9 impoundment of a legally parked vehicle from a public street, when a licensed driver is 11 impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s vehicle cannot be justified on community caretaking For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 available to drive the vehicle away. In sum, based on the facts alleged in the complaint, the 12 grounds. 13 Plaintiffs also argue that even if the initial seizure of their vehicles were reasonable, 14 the decision to retain their vehicles for thirty days, when they were prepared to pay the 15 required fine and had a licensed driver available to drive the car away from the lot, was not. 16 The Supreme Court has held that “a seizure lawful at its inception can nevertheless violate 17 the Fourth Amendment because its manner of execution unreasonably infringes possessory 18 interests protected by the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘unreasonable seizures.’” 19 United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 124-25 (1984). The Ninth Circuit recently applied this 20 rule in a case involving the City of Los Angeles’s confiscation and subsequent destruction of 21 the personal possessions of homeless people that were temporarily left on city sidewalks, 22 Lavan v. City of Los Angeles, 693 F.3d 1022, 1030 (9th Cir. 2012). In Lavan, the court held 23 that “even if the seizure of the property would have been deemed reasonable had the City 24 held it for the return to its owner instead of immediately destroying it, the City’s destruction 25 of the property rendered the seizure unreasonable.” Id. In the context of the present case, the 26 discretion to impound a vehicle for thirty days under § 14602.6 must be exercised within the 27 28 driver, was present and could have driven his vehicle away. County Defendants’ argument about the need to protect Mateos-Sandoval’s tools is blatantly pretextual. 24 1 limits imposed by the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement. Cf. Cervantes, 2 2012 WL 5951618, at *6; Cal. Highway Patrol, 162 Cal. App. 4th at 1151-52; 95 Ops. Cal. 3 Atty. Gen. 1, at 3 (2012). Since the Court has held that, taking the facts in the light most 4 favorable to Plaintiffs, they have stated a Fourth Amendment claim against County 5 Defendants based on the initial seizure of Mateos-Sandoval’s truck, it need not determine at 6 this juncture whether, if the initial seizure were lawful, Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim 7 could proceed based solely on County Defendants’ decision to impound Mateos-Sandoval’s 8 vehicle for thirty days. 9 Because community caretaking concerns did not justify the impoundment of Mateos- 11 to dismiss Mateos-Sandoval’s unlawful seizure claim is denied. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Sandoval’s truck in the circumstances alleged in the complaint, County Defendants’ motion 12 2. 13 In Count Two of their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the impoundments of their Uncompensated taking of Plaintiffs’ vehicles. 14 respective vehicles constituted uncompensated takings for public use, in violation of the Fifth 15 Amendment’s takings clause. The takings clause applies to two types of government action 16 – the taking of physical possession of property, or of an interest in that property, for a public 17 use and the regulatory prohibition of a private use. See Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council, Inc., v. 18 Tahoe Reg’l Planning Agency, 535 U.S. 302, 321-23 (2002). The first type of taking occurs 19 through the physical appropriation of property. The second type – regulatory taking – 20 involves state imposition of a regulation that prohibits or prevents property owners from 21 using their property in a way that diminishes its value. The impoundments at issue in the 22 present case fall into the first category: it is not disputed that Plaintiffs had a property interest 23 in their trucks, and Defendants deprived them of that interest by impounding their trucks. 24 See Ark. Game and Fish Comm’n v. United States, No. 11-597, 133 S.Ct. 511, 515 (2012) 25 (“[I]f government action would qualify as a taking when permanently continued, temporary 26 actions of the same character may also qualify as a taking.”). 27 Defendants argue that Plaintiffs are not entitled to just compensation for the takings of 28 their trucks because they were not taken for “public use.” The Supreme Court has construed 25 1 the public use requirement broadly. See Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469, 483 2 (2005) (noting that Court’s “public use jurisprudence has . . . eschewed rigid formulas and 3 intensive scrutiny in favor of affording legislatures broad latitude in determining what public 4 needs justify the use of the takings power”); Hawaii Housing Auth. v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229, 5 240 (1984) (holding that the scope of the “public use” requirement of the takings clause is 6 “coterminous with the scope of the sovereign’s police powers”). However, the requirement 7 has not been construed so broadly as to encompass the government’s acquisition of property 8 as a result of a lawful forfeiture. In Bennis v. Michigan, the Court considered whether the 9 state’s forfeiture of a woman’s interest in a car constituted a “public use.” The state trial 11 with a prostitute in it while it was parked on a Detroit city street. 516 U.S. 442, 453 (1996). For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 court ordered the sale of the car pursuant to an indecency statute after her husband had sex 12 Having determined that the sale did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process 13 clause, the Court further held: 14 15 16 [I]f the forfeiture proceeding here in question did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, the property in the automobile was transferred by virtue of that proceeding from petitioner to the State. The government may not be required to compensate an owner for property which it has already lawfully acquired under the exercise of governmental authority other than the power of eminent domain. 17 Bennis, 516 U.S. at 452. Similarly, in Tate v. District of Columbia, the D.C. Circuit held that 18 the impoundment and sale of a plaintiff’s vehicle as a result of unpaid traffic fines did not 19 “constitute a taking for public use for which she was entitled to compensation under the Fifth 20 Amendment’s Takings Clause.” 627 F.3d 904, 909 (D.C. Cir. 2010). The Court reasoned 21 that “if the [government’s] impoundment of Tate’s vehicle did not deprive her of due process 22 . . . then there was no unlawful taking and no compensation due for the lawful taking that did 23 occur.” Id. 24 In the present case, if Plaintiffs can prove their Fourth Amendment claim, then 25 Defendants’ interference with their property rights – the impoundment of their trucks – was 26 unlawful. But that does not mean that the taking was “for public use.” The takings clause 27 only “requires compensation in the event of otherwise proper interference amounting to a 28 taking.” Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 544 U.S. 528, 543 (2005). The “public use” 26 1 requirement “goes to the legitimacy of the government’s taking to begin with; if a taking is 2 not for public use, the government has no right to complete the act of eminent domain.” Lee 3 v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 475 (7th Cir. 2003) (Wood, J., concurring). The unlawful 4 seizure of property does not constitute a “public use.” 5 If, on the other hand, Plaintiffs ultimately fail to prove their Fourth Amendment claim, 6 their takings clause claim would also fail because Defendants lawfully acquired their trucks 7 “under the exercise of governmental authority other than the power of eminent domain.” 8 Bennis, 516 U.S. at 452. 9 To be clear, as a general matter, the applicability of one constitutional amendment 11 alleged in the complaint, Plaintiffs’ takings clause claim cannot proceed under any theory of For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 does not preclude a claim under another. See Soldal, 506 U.S. at 70. But based on the facts 12 liability. It will therefore be dismissed without prejudice. 13 3. 14 In Count Three of their complaint, Plaintiffs raise several due process challenges Deprivation of Due Process – storage hearing 15 relating to the procedures that were afforded to them for contesting the impoundments of 16 their trucks: (1) Plaintiffs were not provided notice that mitigating circumstances could be 17 considered during the storage hearing; (2) Defendants have a practice of not considering 18 mitigating circumstances; (3) the term “mitigating circumstances” is vague and arbitrary; and 19 (4) the hearing officers are biased because they work for the same agency as the officers who 20 effect the impoundments. Defendants move to dismiss all four components of this count. 21 First, Defendants argue that statutory law and case law provide adequate notice that 22 mitigating circumstances will be considered. The Supreme Court has held that individualized 23 notice “of state-law remedies . . . established by published, generally available state statutes 24 and case law” is not required. City of West Covina v. Perkins, 525 U.S. 234, 241 (1995). 25 Section 14602.6(b) provides that the vehicle’s owner “shall be provided the opportunity for a 26 storage hearing to determine the validity of, or consider any mitigating circumstances 27 attendant to, the storage, in accordance with Section 22852.” As the California court of 28 appeal observed in Samples v. Brown, “section 14602.6(b) directs the impounding agency to 27 1 consider facts or situations that might reduce the culpability of the owner and warrant the 2 early release of an impounded vehicle.” 146 Cal. App. 4th 787, 802 (2007). This statutory 3 and case law constitutes constitutionally sufficient notice of the right to contest the duration 4 of the impoundment of a vehicle based on mitigating circumstances. 5 Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts suggesting that 6 mitigating circumstances were not considered at Plaintiffs’ storage hearings. Plaintiffs do 7 not allege that Avendando Ruiz had a storage hearing. With respect to Mateos-Sandoval, 8 Plaintiffs allege only that “on February 1, 2011 and February 3, 2011, SCSD re-affirmed that 9 the 30 day impound under Veh. Code § 14602.6 was justified and required notwithstanding 11 allegation is insufficient to support a claim that County Defendants deprived MateosFor the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 that Mr. Sandoval[] had [a] Mexican driver’s license.” (Docket No. 1, at ¶ 20.) This 12 Sandoval of an opportunity to present mitigating circumstances. Because Plaintiffs do not 13 specify whether Mateos-Sandoval or Avendando Ruiz had a storage hearing, and, if so, 14 whether they presented, or attempted to present, any mitigating circumstances for 15 Defendants’ consideration, they have failed to state a claim. 16 Third, Defendants argue that the term “mitigating circumstances” is not 17 unconstitutionally vague. The term “mitigating circumstances” is widely used, and examples 18 of mitigating circumstances in the context of impoundments under § 14602.6 are set out in 19 the statute and in case law. See Cal. Veh. Code § 14602.6(d), (e) & (f) (identifying specific 20 circumstances under which owners may obtain release of a vehicle prior to the expiration of 21 the thirty-day impoundment period); Smith v. Santa Rosa Police Dept., 97 Cal. App. 4th 546, 22 549-50 (2002) (owner’s lack of knowledge that the license of vehicle’s driver was invalid 23 constituted mitigating circumstance); Samples, 146 Cal. App. 4th 787 (reversing trial court 24 holding that “mitigating circumstances” in the context of § 14602.6(b) was unconstitutionally 25 vague). The term “mitigating circumstances” is not unconstitutionally vague on its face, and 26 Plaintiffs have not specified in what way any latent ambiguity in the term deprived them of 27 due process. 28 28 1 Fourth, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have insufficiently pled that the hearing 2 officers at Plaintiffs’ impoundment hearings were biased. As discussed above, Plaintiffs 3 have not even pled that they had hearings to contest the impoundments of their trucks. Their 4 allegations are therefore insufficient to support a claim that the officers who heard their 5 claims, presuming such officers existed, were biased. 6 For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ motions to dismiss Count Three of the 7 complaint will be granted, and Count Three will be dismissed without prejudice. 8 4. 9 In Count Four of their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ thirty-day Deprivation of Due Process – impoundment as punishment 11 an impoundment under § 14602.6 is punishment for driving without a valid license. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 impoundment of their trucks violates the due process clause to the extent that the purpose of 12 Plaintiffs also argue that if the purpose of an impoundment under § 14602.6 is punishment, 13 they are entitled to notice that they were accused of a crime and a hearing at which they were 14 not presumed to be guilty, which they allege that they did not receive. 15 County Defendants argue that, under Ninth Circuit precedent, there is no procedural 16 due process right to a pre-impoundment hearing. In support of this proposition, County 17 Defendants cite to Goichman v. Rheuban Motors, Inc., in which the court held that the 18 requirement that a hearing be provided within 48 hours after the seizure of an illegally parked 19 vehicle satisfied the due process clause. 682 F.2d 1320, 1325 (9th Cir. 1982). However, the 20 Ninth Circuit subsequently has clarified that whether a pre-impoundment hearing is required 21 may depend on whether the seizure was justified under the community caretaking doctrine. 22 In Miranda, the court distinguished Goichman as follows: 23 24 25 26 27 28 Impoundment of a vehicle left in a public place or a vehicle for which there is no licensed driver . . . [is] likely justified by the need to respond immediately to the hazard or public safety threat caused by the location of the vehicle[], which would be incompatible with a requirement of notice and a hearing beforehand. However, the novel question, squarely presented in this case, of whether a pre-deprivation hearing is required for an impoundment from the driveway of the owners’ home, cannot be resolved without more factual development and a more detailed analysis of the competing interests involved. Because Defendants have not provided us with a legitimate caretaking purpose in impounding the car, the question whether a pre-deprivation hearing was required for the Mirandas’ case cannot be properly determined on the record before us. 29 1 Miranda, 429 F.3d at 867. The court directed the district court, on remand, to “determine 2 whether any legitimate caretaking purpose offered by Defendants outweighs the affected 3 private interest of the Mirandas in uninterrupted possession of their car and the risk of 4 erroneous deprivation.” Id. at 867-68. 5 As discussed above, based on the facts alleged in the complaint, the civil 6 impoundment of Mateos-Sandoval’s truck was not justified under the community caretaking 7 doctrine and not authorized under § 14602.6. See id. at 866. Under Miranda, it is not 8 necessary to consider whether County Defendants’ justification of the impoundment as a 9 penalty triggers heightened procedural protections in order to determine that Plaintiffs have 11 Good Real Prop., 510 U.S. 43, 48 (1993) (“Our precedents establish the general rule that For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 stated a claim under the due process clause. See id. at 867-68; United States v. James Daniel 12 individuals must receive notice and an opportunity to be heard before the Government 13 deprives them of property.”) County Defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ fourth count 14 therefore is denied. 15 5. 16 Plaintiffs’ fifth count alleges that Defendants have a “custom, policy, and practice” of Deprivation of Due Process – excessive fee 17 imposing a fee on vehicles seized and impounded pursuant to § 14602.6 that is “in excess of 18 the administrative costs associated with the seizure and impound.” (Docket No. 1, at ¶ 87.) 19 They contend that the imposition of this fee violates § 22850.5(a), which permits a state or 20 local government agency to establish procedures for the imposition of “a charge equal to its 21 administrative costs relating to the removal, impound, storage, or release of the vehicles,” 22 and constitutes a constitutional violation. County Defendants move to dismiss this count 23 because the complaint does not allege that Mateos-Sandoval paid any administrative fee to 24 County Defendants. They are correct. Because the complaint provides no factual basis for a 25 claim that County Defendants imposed an excessive fee, Count Five will be dismissed 26 against them, without prejudice. 27 28 30 1 CONCLUSION 2 For the reasons given above, City Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to: 3 1. All state-law claims; 4 2. Claims for prospective relief; 5 3. All claims brought on behalf of Mateos-Sandoval; 6 4. The takings clause claim (Count Two); and 7 5. The claim that City Defendants’ hearing procedures denied Plaintiffs due 8 process (Count Three). 9 County Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to: 1. All state-law claims; 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 2. Claims for prospective relief; 12 3. All Claims brought on behalf of Avendando Ruiz; 13 4. All § 1983 personal-capacity claims against Sheriff Freitas; 14 5. The takings clause claim (Count Two); 15 6. The claim that County Defendants’ hearing procedures denied Plaintiffs due 16 process (Count Three); and 17 7. The excessive fee claim (Count Five). 18 The above-referenced claims are dismissed without prejudice. Any amended 19 complaint must be filed on or before March 4, 2013. Defendants’ motions are otherwise 20 DENIED. 21 22 IT IS SO ORDERED. 23 24 Dated: 01/31/2013 25 THELTON E. HENDERSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 26 27 28 31

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