California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1406. False Arrest With Warrant—Peace Officer—Affirmative Defense—“Good-Faith” Exception

[Name of defendant] claims that the arrest was not wrongful. To succeed, [name of defendant] must prove all of the following:

1. That the arrest warrant would have appeared valid to a reasonably intelligent and informed person;

2. That [name of defendant] believed the warrant was valid; and

3. That [name of defendant] had a reasonable belief that [name of plaintiff] was the person referred to in the warrant.

If [name of defendant] has proven all of the above, then the arrest was not wrongful.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

The absence-of-malice requirement is satisfied if the officer believes the warrant is valid and the warrant is valid on its face, notwithstanding any personal hostility or ill will.

Sources and Authority

  • Civil Code section 43.55(a) provides: “There shall be no liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall arise against, any peace officer who makes an arrest pursuant to a warrant of arrest regular upon its face if the peace officer in making the arrest acts without malice and in the reasonable belief that the person arrested is the one referred to in the warrant.”
  • “With regard to Civil Code section 43.55, the immunity set forth therein for arrests made pursuant to a regular warrant is only conditional. A failure of any condition prevents the immunity from attaching to a public entity or employee.” (Harden v. Bay Area Rapid Transit Dist. (1989) 215 Cal.App.3d 7, 14 [263 Cal.Rptr. 549].)
  • “ ‘Malice,’ as that term is used in section 43.55, refers not to the actual physical execution of the warrant, but to the officer’s state of mind in procuring or executing the warrant. For instance, malice for purposes of section 43.55 has been found in situations where the officer purposefully withheld exculpatory evidence from the magistrate issuing the arrest warrant, where the officer knowingly used false information in order to obtain the warrant, or where the officer executes the warrant with knowledge that it has been recalled or is no longer valid.” (Ting v. U.S. (9th Cir. 1991) 927 F.2d 1504, 1514, internal citations omitted.)
  • Courts have described the meaning of a warrant “regular on its face” as follows: “Unless there is a clear absence of jurisdiction on the part of the court or magistrate issuing the process, it is sufficient if upon its face it [the warrant] appears to be valid in the judgment of an ordinarily intelligent and informed layman.” (Allison v. County of Ventura (1977) 68 Cal.App.3d 689, 697 [137 Cal.Rptr. 542].)
  • “Peace officers are not required to investigate the supportive legal proceedings from which a warrant issues. However, they are required to exercise the judgment of an ‘ordinarily intelligent and informed layman’ to observe the blatant and patent inadequacy of a warrant emanating from a civil action which directs arrest and neither sets bail nor informs the arrestee of the offense charged for which arrest is ordered.” (Allison, supra, 68 Cal.App.3d at p. 703.)
  • “A police officer must use reasonable prudence and diligence to determine whether a party being arrested is the one described in the warrant. The officer may not refuse to act upon information offered him which discloses the warrant is being served on the wrong person. But, the prudence and diligence required of an arresting officer in determining whether to make an arrest must be balanced against the need to act swiftly and to make on-the-spot evaluations, often under chaotic conditions.” (Lopez v. City of Oxnard (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1, 7 [254 Cal.Rptr. 556].)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 441—443

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 42, False Imprisonment and False Arrest, § 42.25 (Matthew Bender)

22 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 257, False Imprisonment (Matthew Bender)

10 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 103, False Imprisonment (Matthew Bender)

1 California Civil Practice: Torts (Thomson West) §§ 13:26—13:30