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Eversole v. Steele

July 14, 1995

RUTH M. EVERSOLE,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

HAROLD STEELE, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF FAYETTE COUNTY, INDIANA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, AS FORMER SHERIFF OF FAYETTE COUNTY, INDIANA AND INDIVIDUALLY; JOSEPH TODD, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS LIEUTENANT DETECTIVE OF THE CONNERSVILLE, INDIANA POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL.,

DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

No. 91 C 644--S. Hugh Dillin, Judge.

Before COFFEY and KANNE, Circuit Judges, and MORAN, District Judge. *fn*

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED JANUARY 13, 1995

DECIDED JULY 14, 1995

Ruth M. Eversole filed suit under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 against the sheriffs of Rush, Union, Fayette and Franklin Counties, Indiana, and the arresting officers and co-directors of a four-county drug enforcement task force operating in the above listed counties, alleging that they unlawfully arrested her in violation of her right to be free from arrest without probable cause under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Eversole alleges that the defendants mistakenly determined, based on the hand-written records of two pharmacies, that she had made two purchases of codeine-containing cough syrup within a forty-eight hour period, in violation of Indiana Code sec. 35H4-7(b). *fn1 The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the police officers involved in the arrest, finding that the actions of Detectives McQuinley and Sherck were not taken pursuant to an unconstitutional policy as required for a successful sec. 1983 claim against a governmental entity and that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity from suit. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Eversole's Purchases of Schedule V Controlled Substances

On April 5, 1988, Ruth Eversole, a 54-year-old woman, is alleged to have purchased four ounces of cough syrup containing codeine from Thielking Drug Store in Connersville, Fayette County, Indiana. Then, on April 8, 1988, she is alleged to have made a second purchase of cough medicine containing codeine, this time from Hooks Drugs in Liberty, Fayette County, Indiana. Each of these two drug stores, pursuant to Indiana statute, maintained a handwritten record of sales of schedule V controlled substances, which listed the name and address of each purchaser, the date of the purchase, as well as the type and quantity of the cough medicine containing narcotics sold, and the initials of the person who recorded the sale. See 856 Ind. Admin. Code sec. 2-6-18(a)(5). As each sale occurred, the pharmacist or salesperson recorded this information in writing.

Eversole's purchase from Thielking Drug Store was entered on the second line of its log, which recorded the sales which occurred in the time period between April 4, 1988 and April 13, 1988. The pharmacist's handwritten date of Eversole's purchase was marginally legible, and could have been interpreted as either April 5, 1988 or April 8, 1988. The entry on the first line reflected a sale occurring on April 4, 1988 and the entry on the third line reflected a sale occurring on April 6, 1988. Eversole's purchase from Hooks Drugs was entered on the third line of its log, which recorded sales which occurred between April 4, 1988 and April 22, 1988. The handwritten date of Eversole's purchase on Hooks's log, as contrasted with the date on Thielking's log, was legible: April 8, 1988.

B. The RUFF Drug Task Force and Eversole's Arrest

In 1988, law enforcement officials from four Indiana counties, including Rush, Union, Fayette and Franklin Counties, and several municipalities within those counties, formed a task force to combat the ever increasing drug trafficking and use of illegal narcotics. Detective Lieutenant Ted McQuinley of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department and Detective Captain Dennis Sherck of the Connersville Police Department served as co-directors of the RUFF Drug Task Force, which also received support from the police departments in Connersville and Rushville.

In 1989, the RUFF Drug Task Force began a comprehensive investigation of violations of Indiana Code sec. 35H4-7(b), which prohibits the purchase of more than four ounces of schedule V controlled substances containing codeine used in cough syrup within any given forty-eight hour period. See supra n.1. As part of this investigation, RUFF's investigating officers inspected copies of schedule V controlled substances sales records from drug stores and pharmacies in the four-county area, including the records of Thielking Drug Store and Hooks Drugs.

Detective McQuinley, along with other members of RUFF, reviewed the sales records, and transcribed the date of each purchase as well as the purchaser's name on a blank calendar. As noted above, the entry of the date recorded on the log of Eversole's purchase of codeine-laden cough syrup from Thielking Drug Store was unclear, and McQuinley mistakenly interpreted her April 5, 1988 purchase from Thielking Drug Store as having occurred on April 8, 1988, the same date as her purchase of cough syrup containing codeine from Hooks Drugs.

Based on the dates and purchases he transcribed from the pharmacy records to his calendar, McQuinley concluded that Eversole had purchased more than four ounces of a schedule V controlled substance containing codeine within a forty-eight hour period in violation of Indiana Code sec. 35H4-7(b). On June 3, 1989, the Deputy Prosecutor of Fayette County, Indiana, ...


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