Spencer v. Arrowood
OPINION and ORDER Granting 25 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Gershwin A. Drain. (TMcg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 16-cv-10417
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
STEPHANIE DAWKINS DAVIS
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
On February 5, 2016, Jeff Spencer (“Plaintiff” or “Spencer”) commenced
this action against Paul Arrowood, a Michigan State Police Officer (“Defendant or
“Arrowood”). Dkt. No. 1, pp. 1–2 (Pg. ID No. 1–2). His Complaint alleges two
constitutional violations: an excessive force claim and a claim of unreasonable
seizure without probable cause. Id. at 4–6.
The matter is presently before the Court on Defendant’s Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment, filed May 15, 2017. Dkt. No. 25. Upon review of the
pleadings, the Court finds that oral argument will not aid in the disposition of this
matter. Accordingly, the Court will decide the matter on the pleadings. See E.D.
Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons stated more fully below, the Court GRANTS
Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment .
On the morning of August 9, 2014, Defendant stopped Plaintiff for driving
65 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. Dkt. No. 25-3, p. 6 (Pg. ID 220).
Plaintiff acknowledges that he knew he was speeding at the time of the traffic stop,
but blames his speed on his downhill trajectory. Id. at 7. According to Plaintiff’s
testimony, the interaction during the stop transpired as follows:
He got out of his vehicle, come up to my driver’s window, requested
for my driver’s license. And I asked him why I was being pulled over,
as I was being nice and calm, wasn’t swearing, wasn’t cussing at him,
wasn’t being hostile, nothing. He asked me for my driver’s license
again. I asked him why I was being pulled over. He said, “Can I see
your driver’s license?” I said, “No, not until you tell me the reason
why I’m being pulled over.” He said, “You’re not going to give it to
me.” And I said, “No, until you tell me the reason why I’m being
So he opened my door up, yanked me out of the truck by my left arm,
smashed me up against the back of the cab of my truck, threw me in
handcuffs, took me back to the front of his car, searched me, got my
ID out, went into his car. About five, ten minutes later he comes out,
places a ticket down on the hood of his car, said, “I wrote you a ticket
for doing 65 in a 55. Do you have any questions?” I said, “Yeah. Is
your badge number on there?”
Id. Plaintiff later secured an attorney to plead his speeding citation down to a
smaller infraction, a seat belt violation, and paid $65 in fines. Id. at 12.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) “directs that summary judgment shall
be granted if ‘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.’ ” Cehrs v. Ne. Ohio Alzheimer’s
Research Ctr., 155 F.3d 775, 779 (6th Cir. 1998). The Court must view the facts,
and draw reasonable inferences from those facts, in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). No
genuine dispute of material fact exists where the record “taken as a whole could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.” Matsushita Elec.
Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Ultimately, the Court
evaluates “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251–52.
In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts two claims against Defendant: (1) that
Defendant violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force against
him; (2) that Defendant violated his Fourth Amendment rights by seizing him
without a warrant or probable cause. Dkt. No. 1, pp. 4–6 (Pg. ID 4–6). Defendant
seeks summary judgment only on Plaintiff’s second claim, regarding unlawful
seizure. Dkt. No. 25.
Count II: Unlawful Seizure
In Count II, Plaintiff claims that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated
when Defendant allegedly “acted unreasonably and failed in his duty when he
falsely detained/seized Plaintiff without considering the totality of the
circumstances.” Dkt. No. 1, p. 5 (Pg. ID 5). Defendant argues that this claim must
be dismissed because his actions were objectively reasonable. Dkt. No. 25, p. 14
(Pg. ID 139).
1. Initial Traffic Stop
In the State of Michigan, it is a traffic violation to exceed the speed limit
while driving on a highway. MICH. COMP. LAWS § 257.627(9) (requiring drivers
not to exceed 55 miles per hour on a highway). In this case, Plaintiff concedes he
was driving 65 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour area at the time of the traffic
stop. Based on that fact, the Court concludes that Defendant had a proper basis for
stopping Plaintiff’s vehicle. See United States v. Hill, 195 F.3d 258, 265 (6th Cir.
1999) (affirming that an officer had probable cause to make a traffic stop where a
driver was traveling 62 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone).
2. Extension of the Stop for Failure to Produce Identification
Additionally, there is no dispute that although Plaintiff possessed a valid
driver’s license at the time of the stop, he refused to produce it voluntarily. Thus,
the question of Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment seizure claim turns on whether
Defendant could seize Plaintiff beyond the scope of the speeding violation for
Plaintiff’s refusal to produce identification.
It is well-established in this circuit that a police officer may request a
driver’s license and issue a citation without exceeding the scope of a traffic stop
for a speeding violation. United States v. Bonilla, 357 F. App’x 693, 696 (6th Cir.
2009) (citing Hill, 195 F.3d at 269). A police officer may also order a driver out of
the vehicle during a traffic stop without violating the prohibition against
unreasonable searches and seizures. Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 331 (2009)
(quoting Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 111 (1977)).
In 2002, the Sixth Circuit held that a plaintiff did not have a clearly
established right to be free of arrest for refusing to produce identification during a
valid Terry stop. Risbridger v. Connelly, 275 F.3d 565 (6th Cir. 2002). Two years
later, in Hiibel, the Supreme Court concluded that “[t]he principles of Terry permit
a State to require a suspect to disclose his name in the course of a Terry stop.”
Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court of Nevada, Humboldt Cty., 542 U.S. 177, 187
(2004); see also Loza v. Mitchell, 766 F.3d 466, 476 (6th Cir. 2014), cert. denied,
135 S. Ct. 2892 (2015) (finding that “reasonable inquiries” during Terry stops
include questions about identity).
Plaintiff’s second claim alleges an “unreasonable seizure without probable
cause.” Dkt. No. 1, p. 5 (Pg. ID 5). However, contrary to the allegations in
Plaintiff’s complaint, the facts Plaintiff provided upon summary judgment
establish probable cause for Defendant to seize and detain Plaintiff for violation of
the Michigan vehicle code.
First, Defendant had a valid reason to ask Plaintiff to produce identification
because Plaintiff was subject to a lawful traffic stop for speeding, as noted above.
Michigan law requires drivers to possess a valid license. MICH. COMP. LAWS
§ 257.301(1) (“[A] person shall not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway in this
state unless that person has a valid operator’s or chauffeur’s license . . . .”). Thus,
once Plaintiff refused to produce identification, Defendant had probable cause to
believe that Plaintiff had violated the vehicle code.
Additionally, Michigan law required Plaintiff to display his license upon
Defendant’s demand. MICH. COMP. LAWS § 257.311 (“The licensee shall have his
or her [driver’s] license . . . in his or her immediate possession at all times when
operating a motor vehicle, and shall display the same upon demand of any police
officer, who shall identify himself or herself as such.”). Plaintiff refused to produce
any identification, including verbal identification, as to his name, address, or
vehicle registration. This refusal further established probable cause for a violation
of the vehicle code. A police officer may not only seize, but may also arrest, an
individual whom the officer has probable cause to suspect is driving without a
valid license. See Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 171 (2008) (“[W]hen an officer
has probable cause to believe a person committed even a minor crime in his
presence, the balancing of private and public interests is not in doubt. The arrest is
constitutionally reasonable.”). Based on the facts and existing law, Defendant’s
seizure or detention of Plaintiff beyond the scope of the initial stop, where Plaintiff
refused to provide his driver’s license, was not violative of Plaintiff’s Fourth
Accordingly, the Court will grant Defendant’s motion and dismiss Count II,
alleging illegal seizure and detention pursuant to the Fourth Amendment.1
B. Qualified Immunity
“In resolving questions of qualified immunity at summary judgment, courts
engage in a two-pronged inquiry.” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1865 (2014).
First, courts examine whether facts, taken in the light most favorable to the party
asserting the injury, show the state actor’s conduct violated a federal right. Id.
(citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)). Second, courts must ask
whether the right in question was “clearly established” at the time of the violation.
Id. at 1866 (citing Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002)). The Supreme Court
has stated that, “the clearly established law must be ‘particularized’ to the facts of
the case,” because “[o]therwise, ‘plaintiffs would be able to convert the rule of
qualified immunity . . . into a rule of virtually unqualified liability simply by
The Court’s finding that Defendant did not unlawfully seize Plaintiff does not
foreclose Plaintiff’s excessive force claim, which was not subject to this motion.
alleging violation of extremely abstract rights.’ ” White v. Pauly, 137 S. Ct. 548,
552 (2017) (internal citations and alterations omitted).
Even if Plaintiff had established that Defendant violated his Fourth
Amendment right to be free of unlawful seizure, Defendant would be entitled to
qualified immunity on Count II. Plaintiff bore the burden of demonstrating that the
law was clearly established at the time of Defendant’s challenged conduct. Yoder
v. Univ. of Louisville, 526 F. App’x 537, 544 (6th Cir. 2013). His arguments as to
why qualified immunity does not apply fail to cite any law that is particularized to
the facts of his case.
The Court agrees with Defendant that, construing the admissible evidence
presented to this Court in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, a reasonable officer
could have believed that he had probable cause to seize and detain Plaintiff for
violating Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code, based upon the totality of the
circumstances. Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity on this count because
Plaintiff has failed to cite a single case where the law provides a clearly established
right to refuse to provide identification at a traffic stop, such that the driver may
not be further detained to investigate his identity. See, e.g., Raggs v. Pittsfield
Charter Twp., No. 14-13946, 2016 WL 3626807, at *8 (E.D. Mich. July 7, 2016)
(granting summary judgment based on qualified immunity for arrest where driver
refused to show identification to officer); Johnson v. Hazou, No. 1:15CV1811,
2017 WL 887162, at *8 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 13, 2017), report and recommendation
adopted, No. 1:15CV1811, 2017 WL 879448 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 6, 2017) (granting
qualified immunity to defendants on seizure claim where plaintiff refused to
produce identification at traffic stop). Thus, the Court grants Defendant qualified
immunity on Count II.
Accordingly, for the reasons discussed in detail above, the Court GRANTS
Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment .
IT IS SO ORDERED.
July 7, 2017
s/Gershwin A. Drain
HON. GERSHWIN A. DRAIN
United States District Court Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record
and any unrepresented parties via the Court’s ECF System to their respective email or First Class
U.S. Mail addresses disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on July 7, 2017.
Case Manager Generalist
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?