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Rivera v. The Town of Patagonia

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 4, 2017

April Henrietta Rivera, Plaintiff,
The Town of Patagonia, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court is the Renewed Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 19) filed by Defendant Michael J. Massee (“Massee”). A response has not been filed.

         Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         Plaintiff April Henrietta Rivera ("Rivera") obtained an Order of Protection against her ex-husband as a result of a domestic violence incident on March 15, 2014. The Order of Protection prohibited the ex-husband from having contact with Rivera and from going on or near her place of work or residence. Prior to April of 2014, Rivera resided at 289 Duquesne Space # 4. This mobile home was owned by her ex-husband and another individual. Rivera owned another mobile home at 289 Duquesne Space # 2.

         At some time before April 19, 2014, the Patagonia Marshal's Office received a note from Rivera's former father-in-law, requesting that Rivera be removed from Space #4 without any further documentation or information. On April 19, 2014, without any eviction proceedings or related court orders, the Marshal's Office delivered the letter to Rivera and informed her that if she did not leave, she would be arrested for criminal trespass. Upon receiving the letter, Rivera called the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department on both the emergency and non-emergency lines requesting that a deputy respond. She alleged that the Marshal's Office had threatened her and that she feared for her liberty and safety.

         Patagonia law enforcement officers later arrived at Space #4 accompanied by Deputy Gonzales of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department. Rivera refused to answer the door. When a check on Rivera's vehicle indicated it was registered to P.O. Box 82 Patagonia, Arizona, 85624, rather than the address it was parked, law enforcement called for a tow truck to remove the vehicle despite MVD records and previous law enforcement reports indicating Rivera's physical address as that address. Deputy Gonzales advised Patagonia law enforcement officers that without an eviction order there is no legal authority to remove someone's vehicle from their place of residence; Patagonia law enforcement officers then advised Rivera that her vehicle was being towed.

         Upon hearing that her vehicle would be towed, Rivera exited her mobile home and moved the vehicle from Space #4 to Space #2, the space that she owned. In doing so, Rivera backed out of Space #4 and moved forward approximately fifty (50) to sixty (60) feet at a speed of approximately four (4) miles-per-hour into the parking spot for Space #2. After Rivera exited her vehicle, Patagonia law enforcement handcuffed Rivera on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence. A subsequent intoxilizer breath test show 0.00%.

         When a warrant for Rivera's blood was obtained, Rivera was asked which arm she preferred to have blood drawn from. Although Rivera remained silent, she did roll up a sleeve, exposing an arm for testing. Considering Rivera's silence a refusal, the law enforcement officer filed an Implied Consent Affidavit with MVD. Rivera's vehicle was impounded as incident to the arrest.

         As a result of the events on April 19, 2014, Rivera was cited for Interfering with Judicial Proceedings for not answering questions pursuant to a court order; however, there was no court order. She also received two citations for Obstructing Governmental Operations for not signing her complaint and not answering her door. Rivera was further cited for Preventing the Use of a Telephone in an Emergency and Driving Under the Influence. All of these charges arising from the events on April 19, 2014 were later dismissed.

         After Rivera was served with the Implied Consent Affidavit, Rivera made a timely request for a hearing. However, the MVD later rejected the Affidavit as incomplete and notified Rivera that the Implied Consent suspension was void for now but that the Affidavit could be re-filed. Patagonia law enforcement later re-filed an Amended Affidavit, but Rivera was not served or notified of the Amended Affidavit and thus did not have an opportunity to request a hearing despite the MVD stating that Affidavit was served by officers.

         Rivera moved to Elgin, Arizona. On June 17, 2014, Rivera went to Sonoita, Arizona to meet with a constable for the purpose of being served with an eviction notice for Space #4. When she left the Constable's Office, the constable called the spouse of a Patagonia law enforcement officer to inform her that Rivera was driving from Sonoita to Patagonia. Rivera was pulled over for Driving on a Suspended License even though she committed no other traffic violation prior to the stop. Rivera was unaware that her license was suspended and when the deputy informed her of the reason for the stop, she rolled up her window, locked the door, and called her attorney. After counsel spoke with the deputy, her attorney advised her to step out of the vehicle. Rivera was cited for Driving on a Suspended License, Resisting Arrest and Resisting an Order for rolling up the window and locking the car door, Interfering with Judicial Proceedings for failing to notify MVD of her change of address and again for violating the condition of her release from the Driving Under the Influence charge.

         On March 15, 2015, the State dismissed all of the charges originally filed against Ms. Rivera for the events at the trailer park on April 19, 2014. However, the State then filed new charges for Reckless Driving, Endangerment, and No License in Possession. The No License in Possession charge was dismissed by the State when it was noted that the incident occurred on private property and that the charge requires that the incident be on a highway. On April 17, 2015, however, the State filed a new charge, No Valid License, on the basis that Rivera did not show her license during the events on April 19, 2014. A MVD records check reflects that Ms. Rivera had a valid license on that date, and the police reports from that incident include Ms. Rivera's driver's license number. The State also filed Assault charges against Ms. Rivera on April 17, 2015.

         The Endangerment, Reckless Driving, and a newly added charge of Assault stem from assertions by a Patagonia law enforcement officer and the spouse of an officer that, after Rivera backed out of Space #4 and began moving forward to Space #2, an officer stepped in front of her car with his hands up and then moved out of the path of the car as Rivera moved forward to Space #2. At a jury trial for these charges, testimony was presented that the officer was neither injured nor placed in any reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury as a result of Rivera moving her vehicle. Further, Deputy Gonzales stated in an interview that he did not see Rivera do anything which, in his opinion, would amount to Reckless Driving or Endangerment. Deputy Gonzales stated that he did not see the officer engage with Rivera's vehicle, step in front of it, try to stop it, or see Rivera ignore any commands given to her while she was moving her vehicle. Massee, the prosecutor, took these charges to trial. On the second day of trial, Massee dismissed all charges.

         On March 3, 2016, Rivera filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the State of Arizona, County of Santa Cruz. On March 22, 2016, the case was removed to the District Court of the United States pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1441(a) because this Court has original jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331, over Ms. Rivera's claims asserting violations of the Constitution and laws of the United States. ...

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