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9.16 Particular Rights—Fourth Amendment—Unreasonable Seizure of Property—Generally

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As previously explained, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that the act[s] of the defendant[s] [name[s]] deprived the plaintiff of particular rights under the United States Constitution. In this case, the plaintiff alleges the defendant deprived [him] [her] of [his] [her] rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution when [insert factual basis of the plaintiff’s claim].

Under the Fourth Amendment, a person has the right to be free from an unreasonable seizure of [his] [her] property. In order to prove the defendant[s] deprived the plaintiff of this Fourth Amendment right, the plaintiff must prove the following additional elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

1. [Name[s] of applicable defendant[s]] seized the plaintiff’s property;

2. in seizing the plaintiff’s property, [names of same person[s]] acted intentionally; and

3. the seizure was unreasonable.

A person "seizes" the property of the plaintiff when the person takes possession of or controls the property in a manner that meaningfully interferes with the plaintiff’s right to possess the property.

[A person acts "intentionally" when the person acts with a conscious objective to engage in particular conduct. Thus, the plaintiff must prove the defendant meant to engage in the acts that caused a seizure of the plaintiff’s property. Although the plaintiff does not need to prove the defendant intended to violate the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights, it is not enough if the plaintiff only proves the defendant acted negligently, accidentally or inadvertently in conducting the search.]


Use this instruction only in conjunction with the applicable elements instructions, Instructions 9.2–9.7, and with an appropriate definition of an unreasonable seizure. See Instruction 9.17 (Particular Rights—Fourth Amendment—Unreasonable Seizure of Property—Exceptions to Warrant Requirement). Because this instruction is phrased in terms focusing the jury on the defendant’s liability for certain acts, the instruction should be modified to the extent liability is premised on a failure to act in order to avoid any risk of misstating the law. See Clem v. Lomeli, 566 F.3d 1177, 1181-82 (9th Cir. 2009).

A "seizure" of property occurs when "there is some meaningful interference with an individual’s possessory interests in that property." Lavan v. City of Los Angeles, 693 F.3d 1022, 1030-33 (9th Cir.2012) (recognizing a homeless person’s possessory interest in unabandoned property left temporarily unattended, even if the person, who was in violation of city ordinance prohibiting the leaving of any personal property on a public sidewalk, could not be said to have had an expectation of privacy); United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984). See also United States v. McIver, 186 F.3d 1119, 1127 (9th Cir.1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1177 (2000) (quoting United States v. Karo, 468 U.S. 705, 712-13 (1984). "The impoundment of an automobile is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment." Miranda v. City of Cornelius, 429 F.3d 858, 862 (9th Cir.2005).

Section 1983 "contains no independent state-of-mind requirement" apart from what is necessary to state a violation of the underlying constitutional right. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986). It is well settled that "negligent acts do not incur constitutional liability." Billington v. Smith, 292 F.3d 1177, 1190 (9th Cir.2002). Specific intent to violate a person’s rights "is not a prerequisite to liability under § 1983." Caballero v. City of Concord, 956 F.2d 204, 206 (9th Cir.1992) (citations omitted). Instead a plaintiff must prove the defendant acted with the mental state necessary to show a violation of a particular right. With respect to the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court has defined a seizure of a person as "a governmental termination of freedom of movement through means intentionally applied." Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596–97 (1989) (emphasis in original). The committee assumes the same intentional mental state is required to prove a § 1983 claim based on an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Thus, this instruction includes an optional definition of the term "intentionally" for use when it would be helpful to the jury.

Approved 4/2013