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Cardenas v. Fisher
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
307 Fed. Appx. 122 (2009)
Officer Fisher (defendant) stopped a car that ran a stop sign, and the driver appeared to be drunk. The driver gave Fisher a license with the name Isaac Romero. While Fisher began writing paperwork for the stop, the driver fled into a nearby apartment complex, where Cardenas and his mother, Prieto, (plaintiffs) lived in separate apartments. Cardenas was decorating for Christmas in his mother’s apartment when Fisher and two other officers knocked. Although Cardenas matched some of the suspect’s physical traits, Cardenas was not wearing matching clothes and appeared to be sober. Nonetheless, Fisher immediately handcuffed Cardenas very tightly. Although Cardenas corroborated his identity with his birth certificate, driver’s license, rent receipt, and utility bill, Fisher still believed that Cardenas was the suspect. Fisher then searched Cardenas’s apartment without a warrant or consent, took Cardenas to the police station, and charged Cardenas with concealing identity, eluding a police officer, and traffic charges. At the station, an officer loosened Cardenas’s handcuffs after observing that they were too tight. Cardenas had bruises and abrasions around his wrists from the handcuffs and was unable to work for two months. Cardenas was ultimately acquitted of all charges. Cardenas and Prieto then sued Fisher in federal court for unlawful arrest and excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Fisher moved for summary judgment, asserting a qualified-immunity defense, but the district court denied the motion. Fisher immediately appealed the denial of his summary-judgment motion before the case proceeded to trial. Fisher asserted that he was entitled to qualified immunity because he reasonably believed that Cardenas had committed the crime when the arrest occurred, and Fisher’s reasonable belief provided probable cause to lawfully arrest Cardenas. Fisher argued that the district court improperly credited eyewitness testimony, failed to consider Fisher’s trustworthy identifying information, and failed to consider how similar-looking Cardenas was to Fisher’s suspect. Fisher also argued that the amount of force used to arrest and handcuff Cardenas was objectively reasonable.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Tymkovich, J.)
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