United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of pro
se Plaintiff’s Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff is
proceeding in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 5).
se Plaintiff filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 while incarcerated at the Craven
Correctional Institution. He names as Defendants Buncombe County
Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Nathan Ball, Deputy Dane R.
Onderdonk, and Deputy Timothy R. Taylor in their individual
construing the Complaint and accepting the allegations as
true, Sergeant Ball stopped the vehicle Petitioner was
driving while in a private driveway at 3:15AM on March 3,
2018. Defendant Ball stopped the vehicle without probable
cause or a reasonable articulable suspicion and used
excessive force by pointing a gun and yelling commands at
Plaintiff. Defendant Ball’s use of force during the
incident was “very much excessive” even though
Plaintiff never posed an immediate threat of safety to
officers or others and never actively resisted or attempted
to evade arrest by flight. (Doc. No. 1 at 14). Defendant Ball
had no grounds to believe Plaintiff committed a criminal
offense or violated any traffic laws. Sergeant Ball then
illegally searched Petitioner by reaching into his pockets
that exceeded the scope of a pat-down for weapons and
Plaintiff’s fiancee was also illegally searched.
Plaintiff’s vehicle was illegally search by Defendants
Onderdonk and Taylor. Plaintiff was then illegally arrested,
illegally charged, and falsely imprisoned for 24 days. The
false charges were dismissed on March 12, 2019, “per an
illegal traffic stop.” (Doc. No. 1 at 14). Footage from
Sergeant Ball’s body camera conflicts with Defendant
Ball’s synopsis of the case and reveals perjury. The
foregoing violated the United States and North Carolina
Constitutions. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma
pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to
determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds
that it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its
frivolity review, a court must determine whether the
Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). A complaint
should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim
“unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded
allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint as true and
drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in
the plaintiff’s favor, it appears certain that the
plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his
claim entitling him to relief.’” Veney v.
Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
244 (4th Cir. 1999)).
pro se complaint must be construed liberally.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see
also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th
Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of the pleadings is
particularly appropriate where … there is a pro se
complaint raising civil rights issues.”). However, the
liberal construction requirement will not permit a district
court to ignore a clear failure to allege facts in his
complaint which set forth a claim that is cognizable under
federal law. Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs.,
901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). A pro se
complaint must still contain sufficient facts “to raise
a right to relief above the speculative level” and
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662 (2009) (the Twombly plausibility standard
applies to all federal civil complaints including those filed
under § 1983). This “plausibility standard
requires a plaintiff to demonstrate more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193
(4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks
omitted). He must articulate facts that, when accepted as
true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling him to
Stop, Search, and Seizure
Fourth Amendment provides that “no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S.
Const. Amend. IV. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment levies on state governments the same restrictions
that the Fourth Amendment imposes on the federal government.
Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 654-55 (1961). Because
an arrest amounts to a Fourth Amendment seizure, probable
cause is necessary for an arrest to be lawful. See
Henderson v. Simms, 223 F.3d 267, 272 (4th
Cir. 2000); see also Draper v. United States, 358
U.S. 307, 310-11 (1959). False arrest and false imprisonment
are considered under a Fourth Amendment
analysis. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at
384, 387-88 (2007) (acknowledging that “Section 1983
provides a federal cause of action” for Fourth
Amendment false arrest, and stating that “[f]alse
arrest and false imprisonment overlap; the former is a
species of the latter”); Brooks v. City of
Winston–Salem, 85 F.3d 178, 183 (4th
Cir. 1996); Green v. Maroules, 211 Fed.Appx. 159
(4th Cir. 2006); Rogers v. Pendleton, 249
F.3d 279, 294 (4th Cir. 2001) (“false arrest
and false imprisonment claims … are essentially claims
alleging seizure of the person in violation of the Fourth
plaintiff’s allegations that police seized him pursuant
to legal process that was not supported by probable cause and
that the criminal proceedings terminated in his favor are
sufficient to state a claim alleging that a seizure was
violative of the Fourth Amendment.” Miller v.
Prince George’s Cnty., 475 F.3d 621, 630
(4th Cir.2007) (internal quotations omitted).
However, a facially valid arrest warrant provides the
arresting officer with sufficient probable cause to arrest
the individual identified in the warrant. Baker v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 143–44 (1979). Therefore,
“[a] public official cannot be charged with false
arrest when he arrests a defendant pursuant to a facially
valid warrant.... Thus, we recognize implicitly that a claim
for false arrest may be considered only when no arrest
warrant has been obtained.” Porterfield v.
Lott, 156 F.3d 563, 568 (4th Cir.1998)
(citing Brooks v. City of Winston–Salem, 85
F.3d 178 (4th Cir.1996)).
claims that Defendant Ball subjected him to an illegal
traffic stop, search of his person, and arrest, and that
Defendants Onderdonk and Taylor illegally searched the car he
was driving. Plaintiff claims that the charges were dismissed
after he spent 24 days in jail. Liberally construed, these
allegations state a plausible § 1983 claim. However, to
the extent that Plaintiff complains that his fiancee was also
illegally stopped and searched, he lacks standing to seek
relief on her behalf. See Hummer v. Dalton, 657 F.2d
621, 635-26 (4th Cir. 1981) (a prisoner cannot act
as a “knight-errant” for others); Oxendine v.
Williams, 509 F.2d 1405 (4th Cir. 1975)
(“it is plain error to permit [an] imprisoned litigant
who is unassisted by counsel to represent his fellow inmates
in a class action.”).
claims that Defendants Ball, Onderdonck, and Taylor illegally
stopped, searched, and seized him will therefore be permitted
to proceed, but the claims that ...