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Hall v. Young

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

April 2, 2015

DENNIS HALL, Plaintiffs,
DUSTIN YOUNG, et al., Defendants.


JOHN T. MAUGHMER, Magistrate Judge.

On March 26, 2010, just before midnight, defendant Dustin Young ("Deputy Young"), a deputy with the Laclede County Sheriff's Department, observed a green Honda traveling near the intersections of Highway K and Highway 32. Deputy Young initiated a traffic stop of the Honda. After approaching the vehicle, Deputy Young identified the driver as plaintiff Dennis Hall ("Hall") and told him that the Honda had been stopped because it had a license that had expired the previous month (February 2010). Deputy Young then asked Hall to produce proof of insurance for the Honda, which Hall could not do.

Deputy Young asked Hall whether he had been drinking and Hall responded that he had consumed a drink earlier at dinner. Deputy Young then asked Hall to exit the Honda. Deputy Young wanted to make sure that Hall was sober enough to drive. As per the request, Hall exited the vehicle. Deputy Young then asked Hall to provide a breath sample on a portable breathalyzer device. Hall attempted to provide a breath sample four different times.[1] Deputy Young then asked whether Hall would submit to a field sobriety test. Hall agreed to the test.

At this point, the parties' accounts diverge dramatically. According to Deputy Young, Hall stopped cooperating with the field sobriety test, began staring at Deputy Young, stated that the test was "bullshit, " and began walking back to the car. Deputy Hall then informed Hall that he was being detained and to put his hands behind his back. According to Deputy Young, Hall responded by turning to him as stating "It's just you and me out here, and your back up is a long way away." Deputy Young advised Hall that he had called for backup and had his canine with him. According to Deputy Young, Hall began flexing his muscles and responded "I will kick your ass and the canine's ass." Deputy Young then pulled out his taser and told Hall he would taser him if he did not comply. Hall told Deputy Young to taser him. Deputy Young then tasered Hall. According to Deputy Young, Hall pulled the Taser wires out and began screaming that he was going to kill both Deputy Young and his canine. When Deputy Young went to his patrol car to get the dog, Hall followed, tore an antenna off the car, and continued to state that he was going to kill Deputy Young. At that point, Deputy Young pulled out his service weapon and told Hall that he would deploy deadly force if necessary. Although Hall initially said to shoot him, he eventually calmed down and submitted to handcuffing and arrest.

By complete contrast, according to Hall, he was continuing to cooperate with the field sobriety test until his wife, who was in the back seat of the Honda exited the vehicle, at which point Hall asked her if "this son of a bitch [Deputy Young] should blow into the breathalyzer." According to Hall, Deputy Young then tasered him without warning. Deputy Young then went back to his patrol car and got his dog out of the vehicle. According to Hall, Deputy Young then began kicking his own canine and, in the course, of going after the dog, Deputy Young himself hooked and bent the antenna on the patrol car. Then, according to Hall, without any promoting from Deputy Young, Hall "promptly turned around and placed [his] hands behind [his] back" and submitted to arrest.

The parties agree that Deputy Young arrested Hall for resisting and interfering with arrest, assault on a law enforcement officer, failure to produce proof of insurance, and operating a motor vehicle with an expired license. Hall was taken to the Laclede County Jail. Upon arrival, Hall was asked a series of intake questions. Again, at that point, the stories diverge. The intake form filled out by the Laclede Sheriff's Department indicates that Hall denied any serious medical condition. Moreover, Hall never requested any medical attention. Hall asserts that he told officers his shoulder hurt badly and he needed medical attention.

On October 21, 2013, Hall entered an Alford plea[2] in Laclede County Associate Circuit Court to the charges of "resisting lawful detainer" and "property damage in the 2nd degree." Specifically, with regard to the former, Hall was charged with and plead guilty to a criminal information that provided:

[O]n or about March 26, 2010, [Deputy Young] was attempting to make a lawful detention of [Hall], and [Hall] knew or reasonably should have known that the officer was making a lawful detention, and, for the purpose of preventing the officer from effecting the detention, resisted the detention... by using or threatening violence, physical force or physical interference....

As a result of his guilty plea, Hall received a suspended imposition of sentence based on a two-year probation. Presumably the probation has now concluded.

On August 22, 2014, Hall brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Deputy Young, Laclede County Sheriff Richard Wrinkle ("Sheriff Wrinkle"), and Laclede County, Missouri. Hall alleges that his constitutional rights were violated on March 26-27, 2010, when Deputy Young "falsely arrested" him [Count I], when Deputy Young used "excessive force" [Count II], when Sheriff Wrinkle failed "to train, supervise, and control and discipline" the employees of the Laclede County Sheriff's Department [Count III], and when Laclede County permitted the existence of "policies, customs, practices, and usages" that led to the violation of Hall's constitutional rights [Count IV]. After the case was removed to this Court, the defendants filed the presently pending motion for summary judgment [Doc. 7]. Therein, the defendants assert that each of Hall's counts fail as a matter of law.

I. False arrest

The defendant first argue that Hall's claim for false arrest is barred by the doctrine first enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364 (1994). As discussed more closely below, in essence, Heck disallows a plaintiff from pursuing a Section 1983 claim, the merits of which "would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence" without first proving that the underlying conviction or sentence had previously been "reversed on appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus." Id. at 486-87, 114 S.Ct. at 2372. In this application of Heck to Hall's false arrest claim requires consideration of three matters:

(1) Does the fact that Hall's sentence has concluded impact application of Heck ?
(2) Does Hall's reliance on an Alford plea impact application of Heck ?
(3) Would permitting a Section 1983 challenge to Hall's arrest imply the invalidity of Hall's conviction and sentence?

As set out herein, Heck does apply and Hall's claim for constitutional violations arising from his false arrest is barred.

In Heck, a prisoner serving a 15-year sentence for manslaughter filed a § 1983 action against law enforcement officers alleging an "unlawful, unreasonable and arbitrary investigation, " destruction of evidence and an illegal voice-identification procedure. Id. 478-79, 114 S.Ct. at 2368. Like Hall's lawsuit herein, the complaint in Heck sought monetary damages but did not ask for injunctive relief or the prisoner's release from custody. Id. at 479, 114 S.Ct. at 2368. The Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the action holding that:

in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983.

Id. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority stated, "[w]e think the hoary principle that civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments applies to § 1983 damages actions that necessarily require the plaintiff to prove the unlawfulness of his conviction or confinement, just as it has always applied to actions for malicious prosecution." Id. at 486, 114 S.Ct. 2364. The Heck majority reasoned that "Congress has determined that habeas corpus is the appropriate remedy for state prisoners attacking the validity of the fact or length of their confinement, and that specific determination must override the general terms of § 1983." Id. at 482, 114 S.Ct. at 2370 ( quoting Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 490, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 1836 (1973)).

In his concurring opinion, Justice Souter explained that because petitioners may only obtain habeas relief if they are "in custody, " persons "who were merely fined, for example, or who have completed short terms of imprisonment, probation, or parole, or who discover (through no fault of their own) a constitutional violation after full expiration of their sentences" are prohibited from bringing habeas actions. Id. at 500, 114 S.Ct. at 2379 (Souter, J., concurring). Therefore, a rigid favorable-termination requirement would deny such persons a federal forum for the alleged deprivation of federal rights. Justice Souter accordingly argued this denial would be impermissible because: (1) § 1983 is to be broadly construed, and (2) absent "unambiguous Congressional direction, " the Supreme Court "lacks the authority" to deny a § 1983 cause of action to individuals who cannot pursue habeas relief. Id. at 501, 114 S.Ct. at 2380.

In direct response to Justice Souter's concurrence, however, Justice Scalia noted in Heck that "the principle barring collateral attacks - a longstanding and deeply rooted feature of both the common law and our own jurisprudence - is not rendered inapplicable by the fortuity that a convicted ...

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