United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Defendant Donnie Inman's
motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 11.) Pro se Plaintiff
Patrick Sean Sylvester was arrested by Defendant, an officer
with the Denton Police Department, on February 3, 2016,
pursuant to a warrant for statutory rape, indecent liberties,
and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. (Complaint
(“Compl.”) (Doc. 2) at 1; Affidavit of Donnie
Inman (“Inman Aff.”) (Doc. 11-1) ¶¶ 1,
6-7.) Plaintiff alleges that this arrest violated his Fourth
Amendment rights because Defendant lacked probable cause to
make an arrest and because Defendant “assaulted”
Plaintiff while conducting the arrest. (See Compl. (Doc. 2)
at 1.) Plaintiff further alleges that, while imprisoned, he
suffered injuries due to (1) the conditions of his
confinement and (2) an assault by another inmate, allegedly
caused by a correctional officer revealing information about
the nature of Plaintiff's criminal charges.
has moved for summary judgment, (Doc. 11), submitted a
memorandum in support of this motion, (Doc. 12), and attached
an affidavit and other supporting documents. Plaintiff has
not responded opposing the motion. Because this court finds
that Plaintiff has failed to raise any genuine issue of
material fact regarding whether his arrest was
constitutional, Defendant's motion for summary judgment
will be granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, this court must
determine whether there remains a “genuine dispute as
to any material fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Once
a defendant makes a properly supported motion for summary
judgment, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert Cty., 48
F.3d 810, 817 (4th Cir. 1995). “On summary judgment the
inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . must
be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing
the motion.” United States v. Diebold, Inc.,
369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam). If there is no genuine
dispute about any fact material to the moving party's
claim, then “the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
factual dispute is genuine when “the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also First
Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S.
253, 289-90 (1968) (stating that a dispute is not genuine for
summary judgment purposes when one party rests solely on
allegations in the pleadings and does not produce any
evidence to refute alternative arguments). This court must
look to substantive law to determine which facts are material
- only those facts “that might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the
entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
addition, “the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment.”
Id. at 247-48. “[T]he non-moving party must do
more than present a ‘scintilla' of evidence in its
favor.” Sylvia Dev. Corp., 48 F.3d at 818.
Ultimately, “there is no issue for trial unless there
is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a
jury to return a verdict for that party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
LEGAL FRAMEWORK & ARGUMENTS
claims a violation of his Fourth Amendment
rights. The Fourth Amendment protects the right
“to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and
seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV.
Whether [an] arrest was constitutionally valid depends . . .
upon whether, at the moment the arrest was made, the officers
had probable cause to make it - whether at that moment the
facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which
they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient
to warrant a prudent man in believing that the petitioner had
committed or was committing an offense.
Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964); see also
Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 171 (2008)
(“[W]hen an officer has probable cause to believe a
person committed even a minor crime in his presence, the
balancing of private and public interests is not in doubt.
The arrest is constitutionally reasonable.”);
Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S.
318, 354 (2001).
default rule is that probable cause establishes
constitutionality; the Supreme Court has recognized
exceptions only when “searches or seizures [are]
conducted in an extraordinary manner, unusually harmful to an
individual's privacy or even physical interests.”
Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 818 (1996).
Such extreme cases include bodily penetration incident to
arrest, which is evaluated under a more flexible balancing
test. See Winston v. Lee, 470 U.S. 753, 760- 63
(1985) (surgery to remove bullet lodged inside arrestee);
Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 758-59, 771
(1966) (extraction of blood to measure blood alcohol
content). The Supreme Court has not, however, held that
allegations of assault or excessive force alone abrogate the
default probable-cause rule.
of excessive force during an arrest violates the Fourth
Amendment only when it is not objectively reasonable. In
other words, “the question is whether the officers'
actions are ‘objectively reasonable' in light of
the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard
to their underlying intent or motivation.” Graham
v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). Relevant factors
include “the severity of the crime at issue, whether
the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the
officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting
arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.”
Id. at 396.
officer is shielded by qualified immunity “as long as
their actions could reasonably have been thought consistent
with the rights they are alleged to have violated.”
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 638 (1987); see
also Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 243-44
(2009) (“An officer conducting a search is entitled to