Los Angeles County v. Rettele

PETITIONER: Los Angeles County et al.
RESPONDENT: Max Rettele et al.
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Central District of California

DOCKET NO.: 06-605
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 550 US 609 (2007)
DECIDED: May 21, 2007
GRANTED: Oct 27, 2006

Facts of the case

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department obtained a warrant to search a residence connected with a fraud and identity-theft crime ring. Unbeknownst to the police, the residence had been sold three months prior to the search, and there was no longer a suspect living there. The suspect the police thought lived in the residence for which the warrant was obtained was African American. When the police arrived at the house to conduct the search, the family living there was Caucasian. Max Rettele and his girlfriend were ordered out of bed and detained while the police secured the premises, but the police realized their mistake and quickly left. Rettele sued Los Angeles County for violating his Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. The trial court held that the police were not liable for violating Rettele’s Fourth Amendment rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the lower court’s decision and held that, since the race of Rettele and his girlfriend did not match the race of the suspect identified in the search warrant, the police violated Rettele’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Question

Were an individual's Fourth Amendment rights violated when the police temporarily detained him in his home despite the fact that his race differed from the race of the suspect identified in the search warrant?