In Garcia v. County of Riverside, published February 3, 2016, the 9th Circuit affirmed a district court's denial of a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity, absolute quasi-judicial immunity, and California state law immunity. The plaintiff was arrested in Riverside County for driving under the influence. A search turned up a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department arrest warrantfor a suspect with the same first name, last name, and birth date as the plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that when the Riverside Sheriff's Department contacted the LASD, the LASD did not forward information on the warrant subject's last name or biometric description, which differed from plaintiff's. Plaintiff was transferred to LASD custody. He alleges that he told both Riverside and LASD personnel that he was not the person in the warrant. He further alleges that LASD had available information that the warrant subject was a different height and weight than plaintiff, but did not investigate that information. The plaintiff sued his jailors under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 for violating his 14th Amendment due process rights, and under California law, for detaining him past the time he should have been released.
The 9th Circuit held that where a prisoner complains that the prisoner is not the person named in an arrest warrant, and there is sufficient corroborating information (such as the nine-inch difference in height here), the jailer may have a 14th-amendment duty to investigate whether the prisoner is the subject of the warrant. It affirmed denial of qualified immunity to the former LASD sheriff, on the ground that the law on this subject was clearly established at the time of the jailing. The public entity defendants could not assert quasi-judicial immunity, because public entities cannot assert absolute immunities to liability under section 1983. The court affirmed denial of quasi-judicial immunity to the former sheriff in his individual capacity, because the immunity applies only to carrying out the conduct prescribed by a court order such as a warrant. The plaintiff alleged that the sheriff was not complying with the warrant, because the wrong person was imprisoned. The 9th Circuit also affirmed denial of state law immunity under Penal Code section 847 (arrests with reasonable cause to believe arrest lawful) and Civil Code 43.55 (arrests pursuant to lawful warrants), because the defendants were not sued for the arrest, but rather the subsequent imprisonment.