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Garcia v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 17, 2019

PABLO GARCIA, Plaintiff,



         Chicago Police Officers Richard Barber, Julio Roman, and Roberta Chapa arrested and detained Plaintiff Pablo Garcia while he sat in a parked car, charging Garcia with aggravated driving under the influence (“DUI”). After a judge dismissed the charges against him, Garcia filed this civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Barber, Roman, Chapa, and Sergeant Thomas Hamilton (the “Officer Defendants”), the City of Chicago (“City”), and unknown Chicago Police officers.[1] In his amended complaint, Garcia brings federal claims for unlawful seizure, violation of due process, and civil conspiracy, and state law claims for malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Garcia also pursues an indemnification claim against the City. The Officer Defendants and the City move for summary judgment on all of Garcia's claims. Genuine issues of material fact prevent the Court from granting summary judgment with respect to (1) whether Barber's initial approach of Garcia violated his Fourth Amendment rights; (2) whether Barber, Hamilton, and Roman allegedly forced Garcia to take a breathalyzer test; and (3) whether the fees imposed in connection with the impoundment of Garcia's vehicle violated the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment. But the Court concludes that Garcia has not demonstrated any issues of fact with respect to his other claims arising out of the incident and so these claims cannot proceed to trial.

         BACKGROUND [2]

         On February 22, 2017, around 9:00 p.m., Garcia went to La Sirena, a bar-restaurant near 59th Street and Kedzie Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. He had two beers at La Sirena. Around 10:00 p.m., Garcia proceeded to Rincon Norteño at 55th Street and Spaulding Avenue. He had four beers and a tequila shot at Rincon Norteño and left around 11:20 p.m. Garcia testified that, before leaving, he retrieved his keys from a friend to open his car and wait for the friend to drive him home. Garcia stated that his car was not on the curb. He did not believe he had staggered to the car or any other trouble walking to it. When he got to his car, which was parked on Spaulding, Garcia sat in the driver's seat. He testified that he first had the car keys in his hand and later placed them on the seat. According to Garcia, within seconds of his entry into the car, a patrol car, which he had previously observed parked on the street, pulled up in front of his car with its lights on. Garcia stated that the officer asked for identification, told Garcia to exit the car, and called for a Spanish-speaking officer. Garcia provided the officer with his Amtrak ID because he did not have a valid driver's license at the time.

         Barber, the officer who initially stopped Garcia, testified instead that he was on patrol driving southbound on Spaulding from 54th Street with no particular destination. He claimed to have noticed Garcia's car because it was parked about a foot further toward the curb than the other cars. Barber testified that, having pulled up next to Garcia's car, he observed Garcia sleeping in the driver's seat with his keys in a clenched fist. Barber stated he exited his car to conduct a well-being check, having no suspicion at the time that Garcia had committed, was in the process of committing, or was going to commit a crime. Barber recalled Garcia giving him an Amtrak ID in response to his request for identification. Barber observed Garcia slurring his speech and having difficulty understanding Barber, so Barber called for a Spanish-speaking officer. Barber also testified that Garcia had a strong alcohol odor on his breath and bloodshot eyes.

         Soon after, Roman and Chapa, partners for the day, arrived on the scene. Barber determined they should conduct a field sobriety test in the parking lot of a nearby Walgreens, which provided a well-lit and flat surface. Roman and Chapa did not participate in this decision. Roman and Chapa then transported Garcia to the parking lot in the back of their squad car, with Chapa driving.

         When they arrived at the parking lot, Barber set his dashcam video and microphone to record the field sobriety tests. Barber provided instructions, which Roman translated for Garcia. When asked on camera how many drinks he had, Garcia responded that he had three shots of tequila. He also explained that he had provided an ID from his prior job at Amtrak. Barber then demonstrated and explained the first field sobriety test, the one-leg test, which required Garcia to stand straight with his hands at his side, lift one leg off the ground, and then count until told to stop. Roman explained the test to Garcia in Spanish, and Garcia indicated he understood. But when asked to perform the test, Garcia performed approximately seven knee lifts followed by hand movements. On a second try, Garcia performed about four kicks and additional hand movements. Barber then explained and demonstrated the walk and turn test, which required Garcia to take nine steps, heel to toe, make a turn, and then take nine steps heel to toe in the other direction, all along a yellow line in the parking lot. Roman again translated the instructions into Spanish. Although Garcia indicated he understood, he did not follow the directions, failing to walk heel to toe or in a straight line. After observing these steps, Barber decided to place Garcia under arrest, handcuffed him, and had him transported to the 8th District police station. Barber also made the decision to tow Garcia's vehicle. Chapa completed the vehicle impound report and called in the tow. Hamilton approved the report and the tow.

         At the station, Garcia testified that Hamilton and a Hispanic officer who had not been present at the scene forced him to take a breathalyzer test. Barber, on the other hand, indicated that he and Roman completed the booking process and administered the breathalyzer. The test revealed Garcia had a blood-alcohol content of .365. After Garcia took the breathalyzer test, officers then read him his Miranda rights.

         On February 23, 2017, the State charged Garcia with aggravated DUI and three traffic offenses. Garcia remained incarcerated at the Cook County Jail until March 7, 2017. On March 28, 2017, after a hearing, Judge James Brown found that probable cause did not exist for the aggravated DUI charge. The State did not present any evidence from Garcia's pre-Miranda statements against him at the probable cause hearing. The State's Attorney declined to prosecute the remaining charges.

         On March 9, 2017, Garcia requested a hearing to contest the impoundment of his car. The City sent him a notice of hearing on March 15, scheduling the hearing for March 24. Garcia did not appear at that hearing, and the administrative law judge entered a default judgment against Garcia for $4, 125, which included penalties, a storage fee, and a tow fee. Garcia did not pursue the matter further to attempt to retrieve the car, stating that it was not worth the money to do so. Although he retrieved some personal items from his car, Garcia testified that he did not recover approximately $200 in cash that he had in his wallet. He also claims not to have received his jeans and a leather jacket after bonding out of jail.

         Garcia has not experienced a similar situation and does not know of any other individuals arrested by the Chicago Police Department for sitting in a parked car. At the time of his arrest, the Chicago Police Department had in effect a general order titled “Driving While Under the Influence (DUI) and Zero Tolerance, ” which provides guidelines for DUI arrests and provides for the impoundment of the arrestee's vehicle.


         Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. To determine whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 & advisory committee's notes. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on mere pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed above to identify specific material facts that demonstrate a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). Although a bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 492 (7th Cir. 2000), the Court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).


         I. False Arrest Claim

         Garcia alleges that the Officer Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures and arrest without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The Officer Defendants argue that probable cause existed for Garcia's arrest. The existence of probable cause bars a false arrest claim. See Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 599 F.3d 617, 622 (7th Cir. 2010). “A police officer has probable cause to arrest an individual when the facts and circumstances that are known to him reasonably support a belief” that the individual has committed or is about to commit a crime. See Holmes v. Vill. of Hoffman Estates, 511 F.3d 673, 679 (7th Cir. 2007). To evaluate probable cause, the Court makes an objective examination of the facts and determines what conclusions an arresting officer might have reasonably drawn from those facts. Id. Probable cause “requires more than bare suspicion but need not be based on evidence sufficient to support a conviction, nor even a showing that the officer's belief is more likely true than false.” Woods v. City of Chicago, 234 F.3d 979, 996 (7th Cir. 2000) (citation ...

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