Court: No due process problems for arrests of wrong man in ID mix-up

March 13, 2014 at 3:43 PM
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LOS ANGELES, March 13 (UPI) -- A man held for a month after Los Angeles police mistook him for another person with the same name and birthday doesn't have a due-process case, a court ruled.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel Wednesday upheld a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit by Santiago Rivera, who said he was wrongly arrested in 1989 and again in 2009 on an outstanding warrant from the 1980s, in violation of his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, Courthouse News Service reported.

The panel found Los Angeles County wasn't required to include more detailed information in its 1989 warrant, which listed the wanted man with the same name and birth date as Rivera.

"In fact, Los Angeles County had a policy of including an 'exoneration' entry that identifies anyone mistakenly arrested on the warrant in the past," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote for the three-judge panel. "That officials apparently failed to implement that policy properly in this one instance is not sufficient for Los Angeles County to be liable. A single instance is not sufficient to show that a 'practice is so widespread as to have the force of law.'"

The court's ruling also said officers reasonably believed Rivera was the proper subject of the warrant and didn't have to believe him when he said he was the wrong man.

"The name and date of birth on the warrant matched Rivera's exactly. The height and weight descriptors associated with the warrant, although not matching Rivera exactly, were within 1 inch and 10 pounds of Rivera's true size," the opinion said.

Courthouse News said the panel's ruling also pointed out that Rivera, for whatever reason, did not tell the judge at his initial hearing he was not the man named on the warrant.

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