Dan King
Dan King · March 26, 2024

LOS ANGELES—On Monday, the United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled the owner of a North Hollywood print shop is not entitled to compensation after a SWAT team destroyed his business while pursuing a fugitive. NoHo Printing and Graphics owner Carlos Pena, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), will appeal the decision. 

“The court recognized that the result was unfair, but it thought that the police are exempt from the Fifth Amendment,” said IJ Attorney Jeffrey Redfern. “But for more than 100 years, the Supreme Court has said that the police power is not exempt from just compensation under the Fifth Amendment. We look forward to bringing our arguments to the Court of Appeals.” 

Carlos has owned NoHo Printing and Graphics for more than 30 years. In August 2022, a fugitive who was running from police threw Carlos out of his shop and barricaded himself inside. Police arrived on the scene, surrounded the building, and began to raid it, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage and lost profits. After both Carlos’ insurance company and the city refused to pay for the damage, he teamed up with IJ to sue. 

“I’ve tried to do everything the right way this whole time,” said Carlos. “I don’t even blame the police for what happened – they were trying to get a dangerous criminal off the streets. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be paid after the business I worked so hard to build was completely destroyed.” 

In Monday’s opinion, the court did not dispute any of the facts of what happened to Carlos’ business, but ruled Los Angeles police were immune from paying for damages under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, because what they did was a “valid use of police power.” Using that logic, the court ruled that “because no taking occurred, ‘as unfair as it seems,’ Defendant has no responsibility to compensate Plaintiff.” 

“The government shouldn’t be able to continue hiding behind ‘police powers’ whenever it doesn’t want to compensate someone for destroying their property,” said IJ Attorney Suranjan Sen. “If the government breaks it, the government should have to buy it.” 

In January, the same court denied the city’s motion to have Carlos’ case thrown out. Carlos and IJ remain committed to continuing this fight in the court of appeals.