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Travis v. Dintleman

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 18, 2014

MARIAN TRAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JEREME DINTLEMAN, PULASKI CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT., and COUNTY OF PULASKI, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Marian Travis, proceeding pro se, brings this action for deprivations of her constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and related state law claims, based on her arrest after an automobile accident, and a subsequent nonconsensual blood draw taken to determine if she had been driving under the influence of alcohol (Doc. 1). Plaintiff also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (Doc. 2).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), a federal district court may allow a civil case to proceed without prepayment of fees, if the movant "submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets [she] possesses [showing] that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor." Plaintiff has done so in the instant case. However, the Court's inquiry does not end there.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), "at any time" a court can deny a qualified plaintiff leave to proceed as a pauper, or can dismiss a case if the action is clearly frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim or is a claim for money damages against an immune defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). An action fails to state a claim if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility. Id. at 557. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, on February 5, 2012, Plaintiff Travis and her daughter were driving down a rural road at dusk. A deer crossed the road in front of Plaintiff's vehicle, causing her to swerve, run off the road and hit a mailbox and utility pole. When Deputy Sheriff Jereme Dintleman arrived on the scene, he questioned how Plaintiff was going to pay for the damage. Plaintiff responded that she had insurance. Dintleman then attempted to administer a field sobriety test, but Plaintiff had difficulty understanding what he was saying and carrying out his instructions. Plaintiff states that she had injured her knee in the accident. Plaintiff was eventually handcuffed and made to lie on the ground. When Plaintiff could not raise herself from the ground, Dintleman squeezed her thumb and forefinger backward. Plaintiff was eventually transported to the hospital.

Plaintiff declined to consent to have her blood drawn, asking for an attorney and threatening to sue anyone who stuck her with a needle. Deputy Sheriff Dintleman and an unidentified man held Plaintiff still while her blood was drawn.

Plaintiff was issued citations for improper lane usage, operating an uninsured vehicle, endangering the life of a child, and driving under the influence of alcohol. She was held in jail overnight until she could post bond. The charges were also published by a newspaper. However, six months later the prosecutor dropped the charges, purportedly for lack of evidence.

Plaintiff contends that excessive force was used in the course of her arrest and when she was held still for the blood draw. She also argues that her seizure and the blood draw were unreasonable. As a result of these incidents, Plaintiff claims to have suffered emotional distress. As a result of the charges being published, Plaintiff contends she has been defamed, and that she was denied an employment opportunity.

The complaint seeks compensatory damages from Defendants Deputy Sheriff Jereme Dintleman, the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department, and Pulaski County. Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into six counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: The defendants used excessive force against Plaintiff in effecting her seizure and arrest, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
Count 2: The defendants seized Plaintiff without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
Count 3: The defendants searched Plaintiff without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
Count 4: The defendants used excessive force against Plaintiff in securing a blood draw, in ...

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