BEACH SUCCESSFULLY ARGUES LANDMARK POLICE EMPLOYMENT CASE BEFORE NINTH CIRCUIT

Following a narcotics investigation, the Watch Commander for a Sheriff’s substation learned that a citizen who claimed to be a bystander to the investigation had been hospitalized with injuries to his head and back, claiming that he had been assaulted by a uniformed deputy. An internal investigation immediately commenced and deputies who were part of the operation were instructed not to leave work before speaking to internal affairs investigators. Soon thereafter, deputies were advised that they were also the subjects of an internal criminal investigation. While the deputies waited at the station to be interviewed, they were told to remain in the report writing room, the basement roll call room, and then the COPS team office, all of which were unlocked. The deputies were never placed under arrest, physically restrained, or otherwise touched or subjected to the use of force, and they later received overtime pay for staying at the station after their regular shift had ended. Eventually, each deputy was interviewed by the lead criminal investigator and each deputy declined to provide a statement on advice of counsel. None of the deputies under suspicion could initially be cleared of wrongdoing, and they were each then reassigned from their respective duties to station duties pending completion of the ongoing criminal investigation. The deputies filed suit against the Sheriff, other supervisory officers, and internal affairs investigators claiming the detention at the station amounted to an impermissible seizure under the Fourth Amendment, that their Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination were violated, and that their reassignments violated their rights under the Due Process Clause. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants. The Ninth Circuit affirmed holding that a supervisor does not offend the Fourth Amendment by ordering a subordinate to remain at the station after the termination of his shift to submit to questioning about the discharge of his duties as a peace officer. No seizure occurred since the deputies’ decisions to remain at the designated location did not stem from the fear that if they tried to leave they would be physically detained but only that they might suffer some adverse employment consequences. No Fifth Amendment violation occurred since the deputies were not compelled to answer questions or to waive their immunity from self incrimination. Nor was reassignment sufficient to create a Fifth Amendment violation since it is not equivalent to losing one’s job. Furthermore, since no incriminating statements were used in any criminal proceeding, there could be no Fifth Amendment violation. Finally, there was no Due Process violation since punishment for failure to make a voluntary statement does not shock the conscience nor run counter to the decencies of civilized conduct. Aguilera v. Baca, 510 F.3d 1161 (9th Cir. 2007).