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Blight v. City of Manteca

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

December 11, 2019

Joanne Blight, Plaintiff-Appellant,
City of Manteca, a municipal corporation; Armando Garcia, Manteca Police Department Detective; Ian Osborn, Manteca Police Department Detective; Chris S. Mraz, Manteca Police Department Sergeant; Paul Carmona, Manteca Police Department Sergeant, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted September 13, 2019 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court No. 2:15-cv-02513-WBS-AC for the Eastern District of California William B. Shubb, District Judge, Presiding

          Jeff Dominic Price (argued), Santa Monica, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Lori A. Sebransky (argued) and Kevin P. Allen, Allen Glaessner Hazelwood & Werth LLP, San Francisco, California, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Ronald M. Gould, Carlos T. Bea, and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges.


         Civil Rights

         The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the City of Manteca and Manteca Police Department officials in an action challenging the issuance and execution of a search warrant on plaintiff's home and her detention incident to the search as unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

         Plaintiff alleged that the search warrant to investigate an illegal marijuana operation was overbroad because there was no probable cause to search her mobile home, which was separate from the suspect's main house and had a separate address. The panel held that based on an informant's reliability and the probability that probative evidence or contraband would be found in the residences on the property, there was probable cause to issue a warrant authorizing a search of the entire property, including the mobile home. Because the search warrant's breadth was co-extensive with the scope of this probable cause, the warrant was not overbroad.

         The panel held that the officers acted reasonably when they continued to search plaintiff's mobile home once they discovered that the named suspect did not live in the home. The panel held that the probable cause to search the mobile home did not depend on any suspect living there. Instead, the officers had probable cause to continue the search because they could still reasonably believe that the entire property was under the suspect's common control, regardless of whether he was on the property at the time of the search, and regardless of who was found in the mobile home.

         The panel rejected plaintiff's contention that the duration of the search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment because of her age (74), the lack of evidence linking her to the marijuana operation, and the length of time of the detention. The panel held that given that the officers had a warrant to search the mobile home, they had categorical authority to detain plaintiff, the occupant of the mobile home at the time of the search. The officers also did not detain plaintiff in an unreasonable manner and her detention of no more than one hour was not an unreasonable length of time given the circumstances.

         Finally, the panel rejected plaintiff's contention that the search warrant was tainted by judicial deception. The panel held that none of the alleged omissions in the supporting affidavit were material to the issuing judge's probable cause determination.


          GOULD, Circuit Judge

         Plaintiff-Appellant Joanne Blight challenges the issuance and execution of a search warrant on her home and her detention incident to the search as unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants-Appellees City of Manteca and Manteca Police Department officials Armando Garcia, Ian Osborn, Chris S. Mraz, and Paul Carmona. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.



         In September 2014, Defendants Armando Garcia and Ian Osborn, detectives with the Manteca Police Department, met with a confidential informant[1] who had information on an illegal marijuana operation run by Marlin Lee Ford on his 4.26-acre rural property in Stockton, California. The informant had provided Garcia with truthful and reliable information on other marijuana operations in the past. The informant was not paid for the information, but there was a leniency arrangement related to whether other conduct would be treated as felonies or misdemeanors if the informant provided the Government information helpful to further drug investigations.

         The informant provided the detectives with extensive firsthand knowledge of Ford's operation: the informant had known Ford for more than ten years from the informant's activities in the marijuana industry; the informant had helped Ford grow and process marijuana on Ford's property; the informant knew where to find Ford's property and could describe the property in detail; and the informant said there were guns and large dogs on the property. Detective Garcia checked a private database to which the Manteca Police Department subscribes and motor vehicle records to corroborate that Ford lived at the property the informant had described, which was located at 5858 E. Carpenter Road.

         Detectives Garcia and Osborn drove with the informant to the property.[2] The informant identified 5858 E. Carpenter Road as the correct property. Garcia showed the informant Ford's DMV photo, and the informant identified Ford.

         From the road, Garcia observed a long driveway leading from the street to the property, a locked gate at the start of the driveway, and a tall fence surrounding the property. The fence extended up to ten feet high with an extension made of ad hoc materials, and it enclosed the entire property. Osborn testified that, in his training and experience, the character of the fence and its ad hoc extension were suggestive of an illegal marijuana grow.

         The detectives could not see the interior of the property because of the fence, but someone in the car opened Google Maps on his or her cell phone and brought up an aerial image of the property. The informant identified the field where the marijuana was being grown and two residences. The informant explained that Ford and his family lived in the main house and Nicolas Serrano, who helped Ford with the marijuana operation, lived in the mobile home.[3] It is disputed whether the informant told the detectives that Joanne and Dallas Blight, Ford's mother and stepfather, also lived on the property. But resolving that dispute in the light most favorable to Blight, the informant told Garcia that the Blights lived somewhere on the property.

         Detective Garcia filled out an application for a warrant to search Ford's property. He attached to the application a Google Maps aerial view of the property, which he noted was consistent with the informant's description that there were two modular homes on the property. The search warrant affidavit stated that the informant had told Garcia that Ford, his wife, and two adult children lived in one of the modular homes, and that Serrano lived in the other one. In the affidavit, Garcia explained that, in his knowledge, training, and experience, marijuana grown outside will typically be harvested and processed in garages or residences to avoid police detection, and that other types of evidence related to marijuana cultivation and sales also often can be found in residences. The premises to be searched included the "two modular homes, chicken coops and a small barn and various outbuildings."

         A California superior court judge met with Garcia for about thirty minutes, reviewed the warrant application, and issued the warrant. Detective Garcia also requested and gained approval for SWAT officers to assist the police officers with executing the warrant because of the circumstances of the large ...

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