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Oquendo v. City of Boise

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 3, 2017

JOSHUA OQUENDO and AMBER OQUENDO fka AMBER HALL, husband and wife, Plaintiff,
CITY OF BOISE, et al., Defendants.


          B. Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge


         The Court has before it cross-motions for partial summary judgment. The Court heard oral argument on the motions on February 8, 2017, and took the motions under advisement. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part both motions.


         On August 14, 2013, Boise City police officers Martinez and Ransom pulled over a pickup truck driven by Amber Hall for having a broken tail light. Amber had two passengers, Joshua Oquendo and Henry Hall. The time was 10:16 p.m. See CAD Report (Dkt. No. 19-7)[1]; Martinez Declaration (Dkt. No. 17-3) at p. 2.

         Both officers approached the truck. Officer Martinez was a new officer and was being supervised by Officer Ransom at this time. See Complaint (Dkt. No. 2) at ¶ 15.

         Officer Martinez advised Amber of her broken tail light, asked for her driver's license, registration, and insurance, and asked if she would consent to a search of the truck. She provided the documents but refused to give consent to the search. After Amber turned over the requested documents, the officers returned to their patrol car.

         Officer Martinez then realized Amber's insurance card had expired. He returned to the truck, obtained a current insurance card, and returned to his patrol car.

         At this point, the officers called dispatch for a K-9 unit to do a drug sniff of the car. At 10:19 p.m., the K-9 unit officer that evening - Officer Bonas - responded to the call and started proceeding to the truck's location. See Bonas Deposition (Dkt. No. 19-7) at p. 40.

         The officers used their computer to run the names of the truck's occupants for criminal background checks: They ran Amber at 10:20 p.m., Joshua at 10:22 p.m., Henry at 10:24 p.m., and the truck license plate at 10:27 p.m. See Martinez Declaration (Dkt. No. 17-3) at ¶ 12. During this time - around 10:21 pm. - Officer Hilton arrived on scene to assist the officers. See CAD Report, supra.

         While sitting in his patrol car, Officer Martinez was not completing the citation for the broken taillight. See Martinez Deposition (Dkt. No. 19-3) at p. 69; Martinez Declaration (Dkt. No. 17-3) at ¶ 13 (“I had not completed a citation for no tail lights when K-9 Officer Steve Bonas arrived at the scene with his dog at approximately 10:28 p.m.”). He would not complete the citation until after the drug-dog sniff. See Ransom Declaration (Dkt. No. 17-4) at ¶ 18 (stating that “[a]fter the drug sniff was completed, I directed Officer Martinez to finish his cite . . .”). In fact, Officer Martinez did not actually “finish up” the citation, and give it to Amber, until after he had arrested Amber and transported her to the jail. See Martinez Deposition, supra, at p. 69 (stating that the citation “probably would have been finished at the jail based on everything that happened. That's probably where I would have finished it up at.”).

         As the officers sat in their patrol car, the K-9 Unit Officer Bonas arrived at 10:28 pm. See CAD Report (Dkt. No. 19-7); Bonas Declaration (Dkt. No. 17-6) at ¶ 2. By now, about 12 minutes had elapsed since Amber's truck was pulled over. Thinking “the stop was taking an extraordinarily long time, ” Amber began using her cell phone to record video of the police. See Amber Oquendo Declaration (Dkt. No. 25-3) at ¶ 26.

         Officer Bonas discussed the situation with Officers Martinez and Ransom for a few minutes and then let his drug-dog out to pee. See Bonas Deposition (Dkt. No. 19-6) at pp. 34-35.

         Amber recalls waiting “at least 15 to 20 minutes” in the truck until the police approached with the dog. Id. at ¶ 31. That would mean that the officers approached the car with the drug dog between 10:33 p.m. and 10:38 p.m. By then, the traffic stop would have lasted 17 to 22 minutes.[2]

         Officers Martinez and Ransom, along with K-9 Officer Bonas and Officer Hilton, approached the truck. Officer Martinez had not completed the citation for the broken taillight and so their purpose in approaching the truck was not to serve the citation. Rather, their sole purpose was to remove the truck's occupants so that a drug sniff could be completed. Up to this point, the officers agree, the truck's occupants had been cooperative and pleasant.

         Officer Martinez directed “all occupants of the vehicle to step out so that a drug sniff could be performed.” See Martinez Declaration, supra, at ¶ 14. Amber was video recording the police with her cell phone at this time. Amber Oquendo Declaration, supra, at ¶ 39.

         If the situation is frozen at this point, the traffic stop has lasted about 17 to 22 minutes, the truck's occupants are getting ready to exit the truck, and the drug dog is ready to take a run around the car. A smooth exit of the truck would take only about 2 minutes, and the drug-dog run around the car would take an additional minute. See Bonas Deposition, supra, at p. 54.

         The exit and the sniff would take about 3 minutes if all went smoothly. That 3 minutes would be a delay in the traffic stop because the purpose of the stop - to issue a citation - had been abandoned during this time. Moreover, there was an earlier delay when Officer Bonas arrived on the scene, talked to the other officers and allowed his dog to pee. If those 2 minutes are added to the 3 minutes for the exit and sniff, there is a 5-minute delay in the traffic stop associated with the drug-dog sniff.

         But this still does not capture the full extent of the delay, which must also include the delay by Officer Martinez in preparing the citation. Despite having the assistance of three other officers, Officer Martinez failed to complete the citation. Instead he abandoned the citation to join the other three officers in approaching the truck for the drug-dog sniff. Thus, the delay in writing the citation must be added to the delay caused the sniff itself.

         The delay in writing the citation can be computed through Officer Martinez's own testimony. After the sniff was over, Officer Martinez would have had to write up the citation, a task that would take him between 5 and 10 minutes. See Martinez Deposition (Dkt. No. 19-3) at p. 47 (estimating that writing out a citation may take 10 minutes but might be shortened to 5 minutes if “I'm writing super fast”). He then would have to take some time to explain it to Amber, perhaps 2 minutes. In all, the traffic stop is prolonged by Officer Martinez's delay in writing the citation by 7 to 12 minutes. Adding these minutes to the 5 minutes identified earlier (the exit and sniff delay) means that the traffic stop was prolonged by about 12 to 17 minutes, assuming all would have gone smoothly.

         But everything did not go smoothly. When Officer Martinez ordered the occupants of the truck to exit, Joshua observed that Amber “hesitated” in complying with Officer Martinez's command. See Joshua Oquendo Declaration (Dkt. No. 25-4) at ¶ 37. Amber recalls that “[t]he officers' display of power and force to remove us from our vehicle and search us and the pickup for nothing more than a broken taillight was shocking and made me angry.” See Amber Oquendo Declaration, supra, at ¶ 35. Amber started yelling at Officer Martinez, calling him a “fucking pig.” See Martinez Audiotape at 5:38 to 41. After Amber's initial hesitation, she “started to get out” but Officer Martinez opened the door and “physically yanked her out of the pickup.” Joshua Oquendo Declaration, supra, at ¶ 38.

         Now out of the truck, Amber started walking away “which is what I thought they wanted, ” she later recalled. See Amber Oquendo Declaration, supra at ¶ 46. But “Officer Martinez then physically grabbed and yanked me and insisted that I go where he directed me.” Id. at ¶ 47. Amber was screaming, “I don't give a fuck, what the fuck do you want me fucking to do, Mother Fucker.” See Martinez Audiotape at 6:00.

         Officer Martinez asked Amber if she had any weapons her, and Amber answered, “Fuck, I wish.” Id. at 6:04. At this point, Officer Martinez decided to handcuff Amber for officer safety purposes. See Martinez Declaration, supra, at ¶ 16.

         Amber recalls that at this point, “Officer Martinez shoved me up against the vehicle, smashing my belly, incurring great pain, and causing me to yell at him and call him names.” Id. at ¶ 53. Amber was concerned because she was six-months pregnant. After being placed in handcuffs, Amber alleges that Officer Martinez “then took his hands and, with the open palm of his hand, ran them up into my crotch and into and under my bra. The way he touched me appeared and felt very sexual and I expressed that to him.” Id. at ¶¶ 55-56.

         Amber alleges that just before she was handcuffed, Officer Martinez took her cell phone away. She alleges that “[b]ecause it was open and recording, the recording was obvious.” Id. at ¶ 61. Officer Martinez asked if he could search her cell phone and Amber refused. She alleges that “he went through my phone anyway. Later when I got my phone back, the recording had been completely erased.” Id. at ¶¶ 74-75.

         Officer Martinez recalls it much differently. He recalls that “she did not appear or claim to be recording the incident.” See Martinez Declaration, supra, at ¶ 17. He explains that “[i]n order to place handcuffs on Amber, I needed to take the cell phone” and that he was “forced to pry [it] from out of [her] hands.” Id. He alleges that when Amber refused to allow him to search the cell phone he honored her refusal and did not search the phone. Id. at ¶ 24.

         As for Joshua, he was yelling angry expletives at the police officers. He is heard on the audio tape yelling, “Hey, you fucking be careful watching my fucking girl because she is pregnant, alright Mother Fucker.” See Ransom Audiotape at 2:31. He recalls that as he tried to exit the truck, “Officer Ransom suddenly shoved me back into the truck and told me not to get out.” Oquendo Declaration (Dkt. No. 25-4) at ¶ 40. Officer Ransom was concerned “that Joshua was going to intervene with Officer Martinez so I ordered him to stay in the vehicle. Ransom Declaration (Dkt. No. 17-4) at ¶ 14.

         Officer Martinez states that he conducted a pat-down search of Amber before placing her in the patrol car. See Martinez Declaration, supra, at ¶ 19. Officer Ransom states that he did the same for Joshua. See Ransom Declaration, supra at ¶ 15.

         During this initial pat-down search, the officers told Amber and Joshua that they were only being detained, not arrested. See Martinez Audiotape at 9:02. Amber and Joshua were then placed in separate patrol cars after being subjected to a full search.

         Amber alleges that Officer Martinez “shoved and stuffed me into his car . . . .” See Amber Oquendo Declaration, supra, at ¶ 66. He then closed the car door with the windows rolled up. Id. at ¶ 68. Amber recalls that “the car was not running, there was no air conditioning and it was extremely hot and muggy.” Id. at ¶ 69. She “panicked” and yelled for help, feeling “that I couldn't breathe.” Id. at ¶ 70. Eventually another officer saw her distress and rolled down the window so she “could get some air.” Id.

         With Amber and Joshua in the patrol cars, Officer Bonas ran his drug-dog around the truck to sniff for drugs. The dog did not alert on anything. According to Joshua's recollection, “[i]t took a minute or so for the dog to complete its run around our car . . . .” Id. at ¶ 82. Officer Bonas also testified that it takes about a minute to run a drug-dog around the car. See Bonas Deposition, supra, at p. 54.

         The plaintiffs were transported to the jail where, as discussed above, Officer Martinez completed the citation for a broken tail light and gave the citation to Amber. The officers booked Amber and Joshua on charges of ...

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