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Americans with Disability Act (ADA)

In 2014, the Ninth Circuit recognized that the ADA applies to arrests under two theories.  Sheehan v. City & County of San Francisco, 743 F.3d 1211, 1232 (9th Cir. 2014).

First, a wrongful arrest may occur, and a municipality may be responsible, where the police arrest a disabled person after misperceiving the disability as criminal behavior.  For example, an officer may violate the ADA where he misperceives a deaf person’s failure to respond to his commands as the crime of delaying or obstructing a police officer, instead of as merely a disability, and then arrests the deaf person.

Second, a municipality may violate the ADA where, although the police may properly investigate and arrest a person with a disability for a crime unrelated to that disability, the police fail to reasonably accommodate the person’s disability in the course of investigation or arrest, causing the person to suffer greater injury or indignity in that process than other arrestees.  Sheehan, 743 F.3d at 1232.  For example, a failure to reasonably accommodate could occur where officers transport a paraplegic, wheelchair-bound person in a vehicle not equipped with wheelchair restraints, and during transport to jail, the person falls out of the wheelchair and is injured.  Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d 907 (8th Cir. 1998).

Title III of the ADA may also apply to private contractors performing government functions–such as the provision of health care–within a county or city jail.  Hernandez v. Cty. of Monterey, 70 F. Supp. 3d 963, 978-79 (N.D. Cal. 2014).