United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
April 26, 2004.
WALESKA VICTORIA CASTILLO CRESPO, Plaintiff,
ILLINOIS SECRETARY OF STATE INVESTIGATOR, RANDY RAILEY, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Waleska Victoria Castillo Crespo ("Castillo") has sued
Defendant Randy Railey, Illinois Secretary of State ("SOS")
Investigator, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that
Defendant violated her civil rights by arresting her without probable
cause. Defendant has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set
forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.
Plaintiff was born in Cook County, Illinois and lived in Puerto Rico
until August of 2002. She lived in Illinois until the age of three, when
her family moved to Puerto Rico. School District U46 held a recruiting
session in Puerto Rico. to recruit teachers to work in the United States.
Castillo accepted a teaching position with the District. She thereafter
signed a contract with the District to teach at Larkin High School in
Elgin, Illinois during the Fall 2002/Spring 2003 school year.
Defendant Randy Railey is employed by the Illinois SOS Police
Department as an investigator. He has over 21 years experience in law
enforcement, and has worked with the SOS police since April of 2000. His duties include making traffic stops,
conducting criminal investigations and testifying in court. The SOS
trained Railey in dealing with false documents and identifying fraudulent
identification cards. Before August 16, 2002, Officer Railey had reviewed
documents brought to him by SOS employees on 50-100 occasions, and had
arrested an estimated 75 to 100 people for having fraudulent documents.
In 2002, Officer Railey worked both from an office and from his squad
car. He also used the SOS facility in Elgin as a substation to complete
paperwork. When working in the SOS office building, one of Railey's
responsibilities is to advise the clerical staff of the validity of
identification documents. When Officer Railey questions the validity of
documents submitted to the SOS, he normally takes the person into
custody, creating a detention situation, until he conducts further
On August 16, 2002, Castillo went to the SOS's office in Elgin,
Illinois to apply for an Illinois driver's license. Castillo presented
three forms of identification to Sherry Soderberg, an SOS employee, at
the Elgin license facility: an original, laminated social security card;
a Cook County, Illinois birth certificate; and a driver's license from
Puerto Rico. Some of the numbers on her driver's license were not fully
printed and hard to read. Soderberg took Castillo's forms of
identification to Officer Railey for review because she thought
Castillo's driver's license had been altered. After reviewing the
identification forms, Officer Railey arrested Castillo for making a false
application for a driver's license. He had never seen the Puerto Rican
driver's license format submitted by Castillo, the numbers on her license
were not fully printed, and he observed a pen and ink change on the
social security card. Railey arrested Castillo at the counter, handcuffed
her hands behind her back, and took her into custody. Railey took
Castillo to his office, removed her hands from behind her back, removed one cuff
and attached it to the wall. Castillo sat in a chair.
Officer Railey then verified Castillo's social security number,
reviewed other identification documents in Castillo's purse, including
her credit cards and voter registration card, and reviewed a book in his
vehicle which contained a picture of a Puerto Rico. license that matched
Castillo's license format. Officer Railey released Castillo and she
received her Illinois driver's license. The entire incident with Officer
Railey lasted approximately 25 minutes.
I. Legal Standard
Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if
any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir.
2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986)). "Only disputes over 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. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at
2510. The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing
the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). A party will
successfully oppose summary judgment only if it presents "definite,
competent evidence to rebut the motion." Equal Employment Opportunity
Comm'n v. Roebuck & Co., 233 F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court "considers the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor."
Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002).
II. Railey Had Probable Cause to Arrest Castillo
"It is well settled that the actual existence of probable cause to
arrest precludes a § 1983 suit for false arrest." Juriss v. McGowan,
957 F.2d 345, 349 n. 1 (7th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). Indeed, "a
person arrested with probable cause cannot cry false arrest" Id. Thus, if
Defendant had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, her Section 1983 claim
"In order to have probable cause for an arrest, law enforcement agents
must reasonably believe, in light of the facts and circumstances within
their knowledge at the time of the arrest, that the suspect had committed
or was committing an offense." Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 775 (7th
Cir. 2003), citing United States v. Hayes, 236 F.3d 891, 894 (7th Cir.
2001). "The test is an objective one and evaluates whether probable cause
existed on the facts as they appeared to a reasonable police officer,
even if the reasonable belief of that officer is ultimately found to be
incorrect." Id. Probable cause is an appropriate determination for
summary judgment "when there is no room for a difference of opinion
concerning the facts or the reasonable inferences to be drawn from them."
Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467, 473 (7th Cir. 1997)
(citations omitted). Where probable cause exists, a police officer may
arrest a person for a minor offense even one that is punishable only by
fine. Atwater v. City of Logo Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 354, 121 S. Ct 1536,
149 L.Ed.2d 549 (2001).
Defendant argues that there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for
making a false application for a driver's license. The Court agrees.
Here, the undisputed facts show that Officer Railey had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff. Plaintiff presented an
original social security card; a Cook County, Illinois birth
certificate; and a driver's license from Puerto Rico. in connection with
her application for an Illinois driver's license. Railey reviewed the
documents after Soderberg brought them to his attention because she was
concerned about then validity. Although there is an issue of fact
regarding whether Railey observed mat the social security card had a pen
and ink change on it, the parties do not dispute that some of the numbers
located on Castillo's driver's license were not printed and were
difficult to read. The parties further do not dispute that Officer Railey
had never seen the format of Castillo's Peurto Rico. driver's license the
day he arrested her. Based on this documentation, Railey reasonably
believed at the time of the arrest that Castillo was making a false
application and arrested her.
Plaintiff argues that Soderburg had informed Defendant that Puerto Rico
had changed the format of its licenses, and that Defendant had a book in
his vehicle with sample licenses to check the new format. Defendant did
not check the book until after he arrested Plaintiff. Plaintiff also
argues that Defendant should have asked her further questions or asked
her for additional identification before arresting her. It is clear,
however, that "[o]nce a police officer discovers sufficient facts to
establish probable cause, she has no constitutional obligation to conduct
any further investigation in the hope of discovering exculpatory
evidence." Hodgkins v. Peterson, 355 F.3d 1048, 1061 (7th Cir. 2004).
Indeed, "the fact that the officer later discovers additional evidence
unknown to her at the time of the arrest is irrelevant to whether
probable cause existed at the crucial time." Qian v. Kautzi, 168 F.3d 949,
953-54 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Hirsch v. Burke, 40 F.3d 900, 904 (7th
Plaintiff's reliance on Gaines v. City of Harvey, No. 01 C 66682003 WL
124431 (N.D. III. Jan. 13, 2003), is misplaced. In Gaines, the Court denied summary
judgment on the basis that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to
whether the officers had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff for
violation of an order of protection that did not apply to the plaintiff.
If the officers had read the order of protection which was in their
possession, they would have seen that it did not apply to the plaintiff.
Here, there is no dispute as to Plaintiffs Puerto Rican driver's license
as described above. Officer Railey objectively had reason to believe that
Plaintiff was submitting fraudulent documents in connection with her
Illinois driver's license application.
II. Defendant's Legal Basis for Arrest Was Appropriate
Plaintiff's argument that a material issue exists regarding the
underlying statutory legal basis for the arrest is also without merit. In
Illinois, it is a Class 4 felony to "display or present any document for
the purpose of making application for an Illinois Identification Card .
. . knowing that such document contains false information concerning the
identity of the applicant." 15ILCS 335/14C (2002). Plaintiff contends
that a driver's license is not an identification card. Section 14 of the
statute, however, states that "`identification card' means any document
made or issued by or under the authority of the United States
Government, the State of Illinois or any other State or political
subdivision thereof, or any governmental or quasi-governmental
organization that, when completed with information concerning the
individual, is of a type intended or commonly accepted for the purpose of
identifying the individual." 15 ILCS 335/14(a-5). A driver's license
squarely falls within this definition.
III. Defendant Is Protected by Qualified Immunity
Even if Defendant did not have probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, he
is entitled to summary judgment on the defense of qualified immunity.
Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, an officer is immune from liability if his conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982). "Police officers are not required to be legal scholars."
Williams v. Jaglowki, 269 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. 2001). "Because
qualified immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who
knowingly violate the law, a law enforcement officer will be immune to
claims based on an arrest without probable cause unless it is obvious
that no reasonably competent officer would have believed that there was
probable cause to arrest." Spiegel v. Cortese, 196 F.3d 717, 723 (7th
Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). The Seventh Circuit has referred to this
inquiry "as asking whether the officer had `arguable' probable cause:"
Arguable probable cause exists when "a reasonable
police officer in the same circumstances and with the
same knowledge and possessing the same knowledge as
the officer in question could have reasonably believed
that probable cause existed in light of
well-established law." Gold, 121 F.3d at 1445
(citation omitted). Officers are entitled to summary
judgment on qualified immunity grounds if their
actions were not objectively unreasonable at the time
they were taken. Lee, 136 F.3d at 102. The court
should ask if the officer acted reasonably under
settled law in the circumstances, not whether another
reasonable, or more reasonable, interpretation of the
events can be constructed several years after the fact
Hunter, 502 U.S. at 228, 112 S.Ct. at 537.
Humphrey v. Staszak, 148 F.3d 719
, 725 (7th Cir. 1998).
Defendant Railey had arguable probable cause here, at the least. Based
on the quality of the documents Castillo submitted to Soderberg, a
reasonable officer could have believed that Castillo had submitted a
false document when applying for an Illinois drivers's license. Railey,
therefore, was not acting contrary to clearly established law when he
arrested Castillo, and is entitled to qualified immunity. Castillo has
not cited any authority to the contrary. CONCLUSION
Accordingly, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.
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