Summary Judgment in Favor of Whittier Officers Affirmed in Illegal Search Warrant Claim

We received the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Salvador Salas case against the City of Whittier and Officers Brian Corletto, Brittany Corcoran, and Luis Salas affirming the decision of the District Court that granted summary judgment to all of the defendants and entered judgment in their favor.

Salvador Salas brought the lawsuit in District Court, claiming the officers illegally obtained a search warrant for an involuntary blood draw at the hospital that was necessary when Mr. Salas refused to give a blood sample or take a breath test in view of his obvious drunken condition. He also alleged the Officers used excessive force upon him to attempt to obtain the blood sample. The Ninth Circuit (and the District Judge) agreed with us that the case was barred by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. This was because he was convicted of six criminal counts, including obstructing each of the three Officers in the lawful performance of their duties by his physical resistance of their efforts to get the blood sample and a separate conviction for violating the search warrant through his resistance of their efforts to obtain the blood draw. The charge of obstructing the Officers required the jury to find that the Officers did not use excessive force upon him. Thus, the legality of the search warrant and the lack of use of excessive force by the Officers were established by his conviction. He lost his appeal of his criminal conviction, which made the conviction final. 

In this circumstance, the Supreme Court has held in Heck v. Humphrey that a civil rights suit like that of Mr. Salas is barred because it seeks to challenge the legality of a final criminal conviction. The rule exists to prevent the sort of end-around Mr. Salas attempted in his civil suit to challenge his criminal conviction, which was based on a legal search warrant and a finding of lack of use of excessive force, which is final and not subject to legal challenge.  

The Officers were all performing their duties in a proper manner regarding Mr. Salas at all times and should be commended, given the convictions that were returned against Mr. Salas.