San Carlos, CA police face lawsuit for wrongfully breaking into home, guns out

Legal news for California personal injury attorneys. A lawsuit which accuses police officers of wrongfully entering home can move forward.

San Carlos, CA police officers break into Bruce Hopkins’ home after he was involved in a traffic accident; lawsuit follows.

San Carlos, CA—Police officers barged into one Bay Area man’s home with guns drawn and arrested him at gun point after they received a tip that he had been involved in a traffic accident and had been drinking. The man subsequently filed a lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block at the request of the police officers, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

In July, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided that Hopkins can proceed to go to trail for his suit against San Carlos and the two officers. On Monday, April 5, 2010, the Supreme Court reviewed the case and determined Bruce Hopkins can move forward with his suit, after the defendants tried to block it.

The lawsuit stems from an August 2003 traffic accident in a San Mateo County community. Hopkins and the other driver got out of their cars, found no damage and left the scene. But according to court documents, the other driver proceeded to follow Hopkins home, where she confronted him and then called police stating she smelled alcohol on his breath. Two San Carlos officers then went to Hopkins’ home, knocked and announced they were at the door, but got no response. One of the officers then cut a hole in the screen door, and drew their guns as they entered his house. They found him in his bedroom and arrested him at gunpoint.

The charges against Hopkins were later dismissed by a Superior Court judge, who also concluded the officers entered his home illegally. Hopkins is suing the officers for damages. As the officers were seeking dismissal of the suit, it was revealed that they had learned in police training that someone in early stages of diabetic emergency might seem to have alcohol on their breath to an untrained eye. They believed he might have been in a diabetic coma because he didn’t come to the door. The officers also stated they had the right to enter the home to seek evidence of a possible drunken driving case. The officers apparently took no steps to learn if Hopkins even needed medical attention. The courts also concluded that no reasonable officer would have believed it was necessary to break into Hopkins’ home and arrest him at gunpoint.

Hopkins, who now lives in West Virginia, lost his job due to the whole ordeal.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for California personal injury lawyers.

About the Author Nicole