On March 17, 2017, Bakersfield Police Department officers Jeffries and Bishop stopped the car in which Robert Mitchell was a passenger for the purported purpose of enforcing state vehicle code violations. One of the stated reasons for the stop — that air fresheners were hanging from the rear-view mirror — was not even a valid basis for a stop under current state law. The officers then questioned the driver and passengers, including Mitchell, about a variety of matters, including if they had ever been arrested.

Mitchell refused to give his name or other information, noting that he was not suspected of a crime. The officers violated his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights by continuing to demand the information, threatening to impound the car if he didn't.

Mitchell, not wanting his friend's car to be taken, then gave his name but also asked to speak to a supervising officer. When Sgt. Sherman arrived he told Mitchell he had two choices: give the officers further information or go to jail. Mitchell responded that he had already given his name.

At that point he was ordered from the car, handcuffed and arrested. He was taken to Kern County Central Receiving Facility where he was jailed for about 12 hours. No charges were filed against him.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for violating Mitchell’s constitutional rights by seizing and detaining him without probable cause to support an arrest.

Case Developments

January 26, 2018
The ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed suit. Read the complaint.


Adrienna Wong, ACLU SoCal staff attorney; Peter Bibring, ACLU SoCal director of Police Practices and senior staff attorney; Novella Coleman, ACLU of Northern California staff attorney; Linda Lye, ACLU of Northern California senior staff attorney

Date filed

January 26, 2018


United States District Court for the Eastern District of California

Case number