United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
ROBERT J. CONRAD, Jr., Chief District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on consideration of Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the claims raised by Plaintiff in his pro se complaint which is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted and the complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.
According to Plaintiff's complaint, on the night of October 25, 2010, Plaintiff was in the company of another male, and two white females as they sat in a vehicle in the parking lot of a hotel that was located off the Billy Graham Parkway. Officer Alex Saine, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), approached them while they were still in their vehicle and asked if they had identification; however, none of the individuals could produce identification. Officer Saine then placed Plaintiff in handcuffs and his body was searched, both on the inside and outside of his clothing. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Saine declared that he knew Plaintiff was in possession of drugs and he proceeded to search his private parts. In a follow-up search, Plaintiff contends that Officer Saine slammed him onto the back of the car, chipping one of Plaintiff's teeth in the process. Plaintiff states that the two female companions were never searched and that while Officer Saine was trying to locate information about Plaintiff in his computer, the officer called him a racial epithet. Plaintiff was then taken to the "jailhouse" because he had an active warrant for his arrest. (3:11-cv-417, Doc. No. 1: Complaint at 4).
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Summary judgment is appropriate in cases where there is no genuine dispute as to a material fact and it appears that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. United States v. Lee , 943 F.2d 366, 368 (4th Cir. 1991) (applying summary judgment to motion to vacate). Any permissible inferences which are drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). However, when the record taken as a whole could not lead a trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, granting summary judgment is appropriate. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).
The mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. Id . If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50.
A. Defendant's Evidence
Defendant Saine has been an officer with the CMPD since September 25, 2006, and he is currently assigned to the Freedom Division as a member of the Focus Mission Team which has the responsibility of handling drug cases within the CMPD, and he has been with this division since September 2009. Officer Saine's duties on the Focus Mission Team include the investigation of drug activity which involves undercover operations and the purchase of drugs at the street level. In connection with his duties, Officer Saine has participated in ongoing training with both the CMPD and the Drug Enforcement Agency. (Doc. No. 35-3: Saine Aff. ¶¶ 2-3).
On October 25, 2010, Officer Saine was off-duty and working at the Studio 6 Hotel, which is located in Charlotte and has the reputation for frequent drug activity and prostitution. Although he was off-duty, Officer Saine was in uniform and was driving a marked vehicle. Studio 6 management had asked all off-duty officers that were working at the hotel to check occupied vehicles that were idle in the hotel's parking lot. Around 1:00 a.m. on October 26, Officer Saine observed two women and two men that were seated in a parked car in the hotel lot. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6).
Officer Saine approached the vehicle and observed Plaintiff in the backseat of the vehicle and witnessed him make a downward motion toward the front waistband of his pants in an apparent effort to conceal something. Officer Saine asked all four individuals if they could produce identification, but none of them were able to produce identification. Plaintiff told Officer Saine that his name was Carlos Davis and he provided a birth date. During this interaction, Officer Saine smelled marijuana and immediately requested back-up officers and upon their arrival, Plaintiff removed all of the occupants from the vehicle and obtained consent to search the vehicle from the driver. Another officer searched the vehicle but failed to discover any marijuana. (Id. ¶¶ 7-11).
All of the occupants were secured in handcuffs and Plaintiff remained outside of the car. Officer Saine searched Plaintiff's waistband for contraband or for a weapon based on observing Plaintiff make downward movements toward his waist upon his approach to the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 12). Officer Saine next searched his police computer using the name and birthdate Plaintiff provided but he found no match in the system. Officer Saine then asked Plaintiff for his real name which he provided - William Morris - and he discovered that ...