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Baker v. Fermon

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

January 25, 2017

SALIH BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER JOHN FERMON, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          JOE BILLY McDADE United States Senior District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant John Fermon's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 9). The motion has been fully briefed and is ready for decision. For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED. Also before the Court is Defendant's motion for leave to file a reply brief. (Doc. 12). That motion is GRANTED.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Although Defendant's submissions are silent as to under what authority Defendant moves to dismiss, the Court gathers from the substance of the submissions that the motion is a Rule 12(b)(6) motion contending that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted. In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “the court must treat all well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” In re marchFIRST Inc., 589 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2009). The pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion to dismiss, the challenged pleading must contain sufficient detail to give notice of the claim, and the allegations must “plausibly suggest that the [non-movant] has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a ‘speculative level.'” EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires enough facts “to present a story that holds together, ” but does not require a determination of probability. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). Though detailed factual allegations are not needed, a “formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. Lastly, when a plaintiff pleads facts demonstrating that he has no claim, dismissal of the complaint is proper. McCready v. eBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2006).

         FACTS[1]

         Plaintiff was one of several passengers in a vehicle stopped by Defendant in the early morning hours of September 27, 2014 in Bloomington, Illinois. The Complaint does not mention why the vehicle was stopped. During the stop, Defendant instructed Plaintiff and the other occupants to exit the vehicle. After exiting the vehicle, Plaintiff wiped his face with his hand. Another officer on scene, Officer Statz, witnessed that action and told Defendant that it appeared Plaintiff had eaten something. The Complaint does not identify what the “something” was that Statz saw.

         Defendant believed that Plaintiff swallowed a plastic bag containing crack cocaine. Defendant placed Plaintiff in handcuffs and conducted a thorough search of the Plaintiff and all areas under his control to attempt to find any illegal substances on the Plaintiff, including his mouth and body. Defendant was unable to find any illegal substances on Plaintiff or in his control. Defendant did find an open container of alcohol near where Plaintiff was seated in the vehicle. Defendant wrote and provided Plaintiff with a citation for illegal transportation of alcohol on the scene of the stop.

         Subsequently, Defendant transported Plaintiff to the City of Bloomington jail and placed him under arrest for obstructing justice/destroying evidence. After spending a short time at the jail, Defendant took Plaintiff to a hospital emergency room where he instructed the medical personnel that Plaintiff may have swallowed a plastic bag with crack cocaine while Plaintiff denied the same to medical personnel. Plaintiff was given charcoal to drink, which he did. Afterwards, Plaintiff did not regurgitate or otherwise expel any illegal substances or a plastic baggie. Plaintiff was also given an x-ray that came back as negative for any foreign substances within Plaintiff's abdomen or pelvis. Despite these facts, Defendant transported Plaintiff back to the Bloomington police station where he prepared reports charging Plaintiff with obstructing justice/destroying evidence.

         No drugs were ever found by Defendant during the incident on September 27, 2014, and Plaintiff never regurgitated or passed any illegal substances after his arrest by Defendant. Nevertheless, Plaintiff was imprisoned and levied with criminal charges for obstructing justice/destroying evidence. The Complaint is silent as to the outcome of those criminal charges.

         Plaintiff now brings three claims against Defendant by way of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count I, he alleges unreasonable seizure against Defendant. In Count II, he alleges unreasonable search against Defendant for making Plaintiff go to the hospital emergency room and requiring him to take x-rays and drink charcoal to search his body for nonexistent illegal substances. In Count III, he alleges unreasonable detention against Defendant for holding him in custody despite knowing that there was no evidence of obstructing justice or destroying evidence.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Probable Cause

         Defendant first moves to dismiss all the claims against him on the grounds that he had probable cause to support his entire interaction with Plaintiff. He contends the facts as pled in the Complaint establish Defendant had probable cause for all of his actions. It is true that a court may dismiss Fourth Amendment search, seizure, and unlawful detention claims in instances where a plaintiff has pled allegations that establish the existence of probable cause. Fleming v. Livingston County, 674 F.3d 874, 878 (7th Cir. 2012). This is not one of those instances.

         The facts of the Complaint at best only establish that Defendant may have had probable cause to arrest and detain Plaintiff for the open liquor container. The Court states that probable cause may have existed because no facts detailing why the officers stopped the vehicle in the first place are presented in the Complaint even though the Plaintiff does not appear to challenge the initial stop and search of the vehicle. Defendant wrote Plaintiff a ...


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