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Scott Rabin v. Cook County

November 29, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo United States District Judge


Plaintiff Scott Rabin sued Officers Flynn, Knepper, and Quinlan, Cook County and Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 along with various state law claims. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, purportedly on all claims,*fn1 while plaintiff has moved for partial summary judgment on Counts II and III against Flynn, Knepper and Quinlan. For the reasons that follow, both motions are granted in part and denied in part.


The majority of the facts in this matter are not in dispute. On December 14, 2009, plaintiff was self-employed as a private detective. Plaintiff's duties include serving process and doing investigative work for lawyers and law firms. Plaintiff was previously employed as a Chicago Police Officer from 1987 to 1997. On December 14, 2009, plaintiff went to 750 West Lake Cook Road to serve an "Order Appointing Receiver" at that location. Deputy Flynn, who was assigned to the Civil Process Division for the Sheriff's Office, served process at that same location. Flynn observed plaintiff walk into the building with what appeared to be a gun holstered on his side. Flynn informed his dispatch that he observed a man with a gun walking into an office building. Plaintiff was wearing a blue shirt, a turtleneck and jeans and he had his gun holstered toward the back of his hip. As plaintiff exited the building, he had a bulge in the area where his gun and holster were located. Flynn asked plaintiff if he was armed and plaintiff admitted he was. Plaintiff told Flynn that he was a private detective and that he had a TAN card*fn2 . Flynn did not know what a TAN card was. Flynn contacted his dispatch to make further inquiries regarding plaintiff's TAN card.

Officers from Buffalo Grove soon arrived on the scene. Officer Knepper was assigned to Civil Process and heard over the radio that Flynn had a man with a gun. After Knepper arrived at the scene, he observed Flynn standing next to plaintiff and asked if plaintiff was the armed man and Flynn replied yes. Knepper placed handcuffs on plaintiff. Flynn removed a handgun from plaintiff's holster. Flynn and Knepper unloaded the handgun, which was fully loaded. Plaintiff was then moved from the sidewalk area to Knepper's vehicle. Officer Quinlan also went to the scene to assist. Knepper brought plaintiff to Quinlan's squad car and plaintiff was placed in Quinlan's squad car. Plaintiff remained handcuffed in Quinlan's car for about fifteen minutes.*fn3

Plaintiff's handcuffs were then removed and he was placed in a Buffalo Grove squad car. Plaintiff was driven by Officer Derken to the Buffalo Grove Police Department where his credentials were photocopied and his belongings were returned to him. Plaintiff was not processed for any kind of criminal charge.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Once the moving party shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden of proof shifts to the nonmoving party to designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986).

A. Section 1983: False Arrest

In Count II, plaintiff asserts a § 1983 claim against Flynn, Knepper and Quinlan for false arrest. Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment were violated because he was arrested without probable cause. "To prevail on a claim of false arrest, the plaintiff must show that there was no probable cause for his arrest." Jackson v. Parker, 627 F.3d 634, 638 (7th Cir. 2010). "Probable cause exists if an officer reasonably believes, in light of the facts known to [him] at the time, that a suspect had committed or was committing an offense." Id. (quotation marks omitted). "[T]he probable cause inquiry is an objective one; the subjective motivations of the officer do not invalidate a search otherwise supported by probable cause." Carmichael v. Village of Palatine, Ill., 605 F.3d 451, 457 (7th Cir. 2010).

In response, defendants raise two arguments -- that the arrest was supported by probable cause or, in the alternative, that the officers engaged in a Terry stop. I reject defendants' alternative argument, raised only in response to plaintiff's motion (and which appears nowhere in defendants' own motion for summary judgment), that plaintiff's detention was merely a lengthy Terry stop. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). There is no bright line separating an investigative detention from a formal arrest; the distinction hinges on the intrusiveness of the detention and involves a highly fact-intensive inquiry. See Jewett v. Ander, 521 F.3d 818, 823 (7th Cir. 2008). As an initial matter, both sides agree that the initial stop and questioning of plaintiff was reasonable and proper, given the fact that plaintiff was carrying a concealed weapon. However, with respect to the detention of plaintiff, I conclude that the defendant officers' suspicion of plaintiff was objectively unreasonable. "[I]f police have a reasonable suspicion, grounded in specific and articulable facts, that a person they encounter was involved in . . . a completed felony, then a Terry stop may be made to investigate that suspicion." U.S. v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 229 (1985).

While the initial stop may have been reasonable, there quickly came a point when any continued detention was no longer reasonable. As explained more fully in the probable cause analysis, plaintiff provided the officers with all the information they needed in order to conclude that he was lawfully permitted to carry a gun. Thus, once the officers understood that plaintiff was a licensed private detective with a TAN card, it was no longer reasonable for them to continue to detain plaintiff. Therefore, I reject defendants' argument that the detention was proper under Terry. Instead, I agree with plaintiff that he was arrested at the scene. To determine whether a seizure is an arrest, I look at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the seizure, focusing on the extent and duration of any restraint on the suspect's movement. See Kaupp v. Texas, 538 U.S. 626, 629-30 (2003). A suspect is under arrest when "a reasonable person in the suspect's position would have understood the situation to constitute restraint on the freedom of movement of the degree which the law associates with a formal arrest." Sornberger v. City of Knoxville, Ill., 434 F.3d 1006, 1017 (7th Cir. 2006). The cases defendants cite, which involve inherently dangerous situations and allowed for the use of handcuffs and placement in police cars, are inapposite here. It is undisputed that plaintiff was entirely compliant and cooperative during the entire detention. Plaintiff was not suspected of being involved in any inherently dangerous crimes, such as drug trafficking. Further, defendants disarmed plaintiff, so any potential threat from the weapon was eliminated. Even though plaintiff was not armed and even though he was fully cooperating and compliant, defendants nonetheless detained plaintiff in the back of two police cars and handcuffed him. Further, plaintiff's detention was not brief -- he estimates the length of the stop was greater than 1.5 hours from the time Flynn approached plaintiff to the time plaintiff was released from the Buffalo Grove police station. Defendants' assertion that plaintiff was "evasive" in his answers to Flynn is totally unsupported in the record. Given the circumstances and the lack of any danger to the officers or any indication that they believed plaintiff would attempt to flee, I believe that plaintiff was arrested when he was handcuffed and placed in the back of the two police cars. See Washington v. Lambert, 98 F.3d 1181, 1185 (9th Cir. 1996) (handcuffing a compliant and cooperative suspect during a Terry stop was deemed an arrest, especially in light of the fact that there was no basis for the officer to fear for his safety); Maldonado v. Pierri, No. 08 C 1954, 2010 WL 431478 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 2010) (concluding the plaintiff had been arrested where police, among other things, handcuffed, searched and placed plaintiff in a police car; noting that officers "handcuffed and detained a seemingly cooperative suspect who displayed no signs of resistance.").

Next, defendants argue that Count II fails because they had probable cause to arrest plaintiff for various weapons offenses. Under Illinois law, a person commits Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon "when he or she knowingly: (1) carries on or about his or her person or in any vehicle or concealed on or about his or her person except when on his or her land or in his or her abode, legal dwelling, or fixed place of business . . . any pistol . . . or other firearm." 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1). In addition, the offense of Unlawful Use of Weapons provides, in relevant part, that a person commits the offense when he knowingly "carries or possesses in any vehicle or concealed on or about his person except when on his own land or in his own abode, legal dwelling, or fixed place of business . . . any pistol . . . or other firearm." 720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4). It is undisputed that plaintiff knowingly possessed and concealed a fully loaded handgun, and plaintiff was not in his abode, on his land or at his place of business at the time of the arrest. Anticipating plaintiff's argument concerning exemptions from these two offenses, defendants argue that once a police officer discovers sufficient facts to establish probable cause, he has no constitutional obligation to conduct any further investigation in the hope of discovering exculpatory evidence. In addition, defendants assert that any exemption is an affirmative defense, and "the validity of an affirmative defense is irrelevant to whether or not a police officer sued for false arrest had probably cause to make an arrest." Defs.'s Mem. at 6.

Plaintiff does not dispute defendants' contention that the elements for the above-listed offenses were met. Instead, he argues that defendants lacked probable cause because he was statutorily exempt from both statutes based upon his employment as a private detective. Under Illinois law, a private detective is exempt from sections 5/24-1(a)(4) and 5/24-1.6 so long as he was performing the duties of his employment ...

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