Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian of Fresno, California owned and operated “Coin Pusher” prize machines, where players could insert quarters in the hopes that the device would push a stack of accumulated coins out through a chute at the front. California deemed these machines “illegal gambling devices” in 2010. When Jessop and Ashjian’s “Coin Pushers” were discovered in 2013, a search warrant was issued, and officers arrived to seize the devices.
But that isn’t all the officers took, according to Jessop and Ashjian. They claim officers seized over $225,000 in assets, including a rare collection of gold coins, while only recording around $50,000. The officers dispute the allegations, claiming they just took the $50,000 worth of assets in their report – including the coins’ container, but not the coins themselves.
Jessop and Ashjian brought suit, contending that the alleged theft violated their Fourth Amendment rights. But if the City of Fresno gets its way, the pair will never see their day in court. The officers claim qualified immunity entitles them to a judgment in their favor with no finding of fact by a jury.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that Jessop and Ashjian would be allowed to take their case to trial in other jurisdictions, where case law clearly establishes stealing seized property as a violating the Fourth Amendment. Nonetheless, the court granted the officers summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The reason? There was no case clearly establishing theft-through-seizure as a constitutional violation in their jurisdiction.
Read the full opinion