SIMMER v. KEHLER, ESQUIRE et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Robert B. Kugler on 3/24/2017. (tf, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
(Doc. Nos. 51, 61)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil No. 15-2285 (RBK/JS)
FAWN KEHLER, ESQUIRE, et al.
Kugler, United States District Judge:
Kaitlin Simmer (“Plaintiff”) brings federal claims under section 1983 against Officer
Daniel Peters, Detective Sergeant Robert Walker, Detective Bren Grunow, Sergeant Michael
Workman, and Detective David Hartzell (collectively, “Defendants”) for alleged violations of
her Fourth Amendment rights. This matter comes before the Court on Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment (Doc. No. 51) and Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file sur-reply (Doc. No. 61).
For the following reasons, Defendants’ motions for summary judgment is GRANTED.
Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file sur-reply is GRANTED.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
The facts, in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, are as follows: Plaintiff was in Stone
Harbor, New Jersey on vacation with her children, her family, and the Kehler family on July 1,
2014. Defendants’ Statement of Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (“Defs.’
St.”) ¶ 9 (Doc. No. 51-2); Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition to Defendants’ Statement of
Material Facts (“Pl.’s Resp.”) ¶ 9 (Doc. No. 59-1). Plaintiff was staying at her grandparents’
home in Cape May Courthouse. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 10, 15; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 10, 15. The Kehler family
rented a separate house in Stone Harbor because they could not all stay at Plaintiff’s
grandparents’ house. Defs.’ St. ¶ 11; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 11. Plaintiff made plans to meet with her thenfriend, Fawn Kehler, at the Windrift in Avalon, New Jersey. Defs.’ St. ¶ 17; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 17.
Plaintiff may have taken a prescribed Xanax around 3:00 p.m. on July 1, 2014. Defs.’ St.
¶ 18; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 18. Plaintiff left her grandparents’ house to go to the Windrift around 9:00
p.m. that night. Defs.’ St. ¶ 19; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 19. Plaintiff drove to the Windrift and met with
Fawn Kehler, James Streapy (Plaintiff’s brother), and Jacqueline Barrett (Streapy’s girlfriend).
Defs.’ St. ¶ 20; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 20. Plaintiff claims to have had a mixed drink and a shot over the
next hour and a half before Streapy and Barrett left the Windrift. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 21-22; Pl.’s Resp.
¶¶ 21-22. Plaintiff also alleges that she had “a few sips” of Streapy’s beer after he left. Defs.’ St.
¶ 21; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 21.
Plaintiff stayed at the Windrift after Streapy and Barrett left because Kehler asked her to
stay and because Plaintiff had “just gotten there.” Defs.’ St. ¶ 23; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 23. Four men then
came over to speak with Plaintiff and Kehler after Streapy and Barrett left the Windrift. Defs.’
St. ¶ 24; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 24. Plaintiff claims to have no further recollection of the night after this
point other than getting into a car with Kehler and four men. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 25-26; Pl.’s Resp.
Kehler’s recollection of the evening of July 1, 2014 differs in some regards from
Plaintiff’s. Kehler alleges that Plaintiff had a mixed drink and two (rather than one) shot of
whiskey before Streapy and Barrett left the bar. Defs.’ St. ¶ 50; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 50. Kehler further
claims that Plaintiff had the beer remaining in the pitcher that Streapy and Barrett had been
sharing before leaving the table to speak with a group of three to four men. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 51-52;
Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 51-52. Kehler then joined Plaintiff at the table with the group of men. Defs.’ St.
¶ 53; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 53. The group shared a pitcher of beer after Kehler had one of the men drink
from the pitcher to demonstrate that it was not laced with anything. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 53-54 ; Pl.’s
Resp. ¶¶ 53-54. Kehler recalls that Plaintiff had at least seven drinks at the Windrift (two mixed
drinks, three shots, and two beers). Defs.’ St. ¶ 55; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 55. Kehler and Plaintiff may
have also gone to a second bar after the Windrift, though Kehler cannot recall how they went to
the second location. Defs.’ St. ¶ 56; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 56.
Kehler does recall that one of the men they met at the Windrift gave her and Plaintiff a
ride home, dropping the two off about a block from the Kehlers’ rental. Defs.’ St. ¶ 57; Pl.’s
Resp. ¶ 57. Kehler alleges that Plaintiff had trouble walking because she was very drunk. Defs.’
St. ¶ 58; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 58. Kehler also recounts that Plaintiff urinated in a yard and tossed her
shoes. Defs.’ St. ¶ 59; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 59. Kehler attempted to help Plaintiff walk back to the
Kehlers’ rental, but Kehler eventually gave up because Plaintiff kept attempting to pull away and
walk in the opposite direction. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 60-61; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 60-61. Kehler separated from
Plaintiff and was then unable to relocate Plaintiff. Defs.’ St. ¶ 62; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 62.
The next thing Plaintiff recalls is waking up on a couch in the DeLaurentis home. Defs.’
St. ¶¶ 28-29; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 28-29. Plaintiff had never been in the DeLaurentis house before, and
she left the house because she “thought maybe something bad was happening.” Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 2930; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 29-30. Plaintiff walked around the block to her car and drove back to her
grandparents’ house in Cape May Courthouse. Defs.’ St. ¶ 31; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 31.
Stone Harbor Police Officer Daniel Peters was dispatched to the DeLaurentis household
for “found property” at 8:35 a.m. on July 2, 2014. Defs.’ St. ¶ 64; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 64. Joseph
DeLaurentis found Plaintiff sleeping on his couch around 7:00 a.m., believing that Plaintiff was
his daughter’s friend. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 65-66; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 65-66. DeLaurentis went to wake up his
wife, and found that Plaintiff had left the house when he returned. Defs.’ St. ¶ 67; Pl.’s Resp.
¶ 67. DeLaurentis called the police regarding “found property” because Plaintiff left her wallet in
the DeLaurentis’ home. Defs.’ St. ¶ 68; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 68.
Officer Peters brought Plaintiff’s purse back to the station and inventoried its contents.
Defs.’ St. ¶ 69; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 69. Plaintiff’s brother called her phone and Officer Peters told him
that Plaintiff could retrieve her items at the police station. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 33, 70-71; Pl.’s Resp.
¶¶ 33, 70-71. Peters spoke with Sergeant Workman, Detective Grunow, and Detective Sergeant
Walker at 9:20 a.m. to discuss Plaintiff’s incident. Defs.’ St. ¶ 72; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 72. Peters recalls
that Sergeant Workman then went to speak to his supervisor. Defs.’ St. ¶ 109; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 109.
When Walker returned, he informed Peters that Plaintiff would be charged with trespassing.
Defs.’ St. ¶ 110; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 110. Peters explained that he was unaware of any evidence that
Plaintiff was intoxicated or unaware of her actions at the time this discussion and decision
occurred. Defs.’ St. ¶ 112; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 112.
Sergeant Workman recalls that the decision to charge Plaintiff with trespassing was made
after discussing the known facts with Peters, Grunow, and Walker. Defs.’ St. ¶ 119; Pl.’s Resp.
¶ 119. Detective Sergeant Walker made the ultimate decision to charge Plaintiff with criminal
trespass. Defs.’ St. ¶ 129; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 129. Walker believed that, despite DeLaurentis’s
statement that he did not wish to press charges, all elements needed to charge Plaintiff with
criminal trespass were present. Defs.’ St. ¶ 130; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 130.1 Walker testified that he had
previously charged individuals who drunkenly entered homes without permission with criminal
trespass. Defs.’ St. ¶ 133; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 133.
1. The Court notes that Plaintiff denies that the elements necessary to charge Plaintiff with criminal trespass were
present. Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 130. This contention does not negate the fact that Walker believed this to be the case.
Plaintiff’s brother drove her to the police station to recover her purse. Defs.’ St. ¶ 34;
Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 34. Plaintiff arrived at the police station at 10:39 a.m. Defs.’ St. ¶ 73; Pl.’s Resp.
¶ 73. Plaintiff spoke to an officer at the intake window and was directed to follow an officer into
the station because she was being placed under arrest. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 35-36, 73; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 3536, 73. Plaintiff was read her Miranda rights and she agreed to speak to the officers without an
attorney. Defs.’ St. ¶ 74; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 74.
Plaintiff’s interview was conducted by Detective Sergeant Walker and Detective
Grunow. Defs.’ St. ¶ 75; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 75. The interview lasted approximately 23 minutes. Defs.’
St. ¶¶ 81-82; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 81-82. Plaintiff alleges that she was told that DeLaurentis did not
want to press trespass charges against her, but they needed to charge her due to a “new rule.”
Defs.’ St. ¶ 37; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 37. Plaintiff was transported to the Cape Regional Medical Center
after the interview ended. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 83-84, 73; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 83-84.
Plaintiff arrived at the hospital around 12:09 p.m. Defs.’ St. ¶ 84; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 84.
Plaintiff initially asked for a Sexual Assault Kit to be performed, but later decline the procedure.
Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 41, 86; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 41, 86. Plaintiff declined the kit after being told that the police
would ask her boyfriend for samples. Plaintiff’s Statement of Facts (“Pl.’s St.”)2 ¶ 8; Defendants’
Response (“Defs.’ Resp.”) ¶ 8. Plaintiff wanted the matter to remain private. Pl.’s St. ¶ 8; Defs.’
Resp. ¶ 8. Plaintiff did have a blood sample taken around 3:07 p.m. before she was transported
back to the police station. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 87-88; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 87-88. Plaintiff believes she was
held at the police station until approximately 4:00 p.m. Defs.’ St. ¶ 90; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 90.
2. The Court notes that Plaintiff’s counsel has disregarded Local Rule 56.1 and has submitted Plaintiff’s statement of
facts as part of Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition to the Defendants’
Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court will refer to the Statement of Facts section as “Pl.’s St.” and the rest of
the brief as Plaintiff’s Opposition Brief (“Pl.’s Opp’n Br.”)
Detective Sergeant Walker interviewed Kehler while Plaintiff was at the Cape Region
Medical Center. Defs.’ St. ¶ 91; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 91. Kehler recounted her time with Plaintiff at the
Windrift and after the two were dropped off. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 93-95; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 93-95. Kehler
explained to Walker that she was with Plaintiff the entire time they were with the men from the
Windrift and assured him that nothing inappropriate occurred between Plaintiff and any of the
men. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 98-100; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 98-100. Walker followed up on his interview with
Kehler by viewing security footage from the Windrift. Defs.’ St. ¶ 101; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 101. The
video appeared to corroborate Kehler’s account of the evening and Walker did not note any
concerning conduct regarding Plaintiff in the footage. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 102-04; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 10204.
Plaintiff had to hire a criminal defense attorney regarding these charges, and her exhusband filed for custody of their children after learning of Plaintiff’s arrest. Pl.’s St. ¶¶ 13-14;
Defs.’ Resp. ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff’s criminal trespass charge was ultimately dismissed by the Cape
May County Prosecutor’s Office on August 20, 2014. Pl.’s St. ¶ 12; Defs.’ Resp. ¶ 12.
The New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Sciences finished testing Plaintiff’s blood
sample on February 20, 2015. Defs.’ St. ¶ 105; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 105. The results showed alcohol and
Plaintiff’s prescribed Xanax, but no other substances. Defs.’ St. ¶ 106; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 106. The
results also showed a blood alcohol content of .014%. Defs.’ St. ¶ 108; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 108.
Detective Hartzell filed a report reviewing these test results on April 6, 2015 in which he
calculated that Plaintiff’s BAC on the night of July 1, 2014 into July 2, 2014 would have been
approximately .231%. Defs.’ St. ¶¶ 107-108; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 107-108.
Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging malicious prosecution/false arrest and wrongful search
and seizure against defendants Kehler, Peters, Walker, Grunow, Workman, Davis, Hartzell, and
10 John Doe defendants, and a Monell claim against the Borough of Stone Harbor on March 31,
2015. Compl. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on June 22,
2015. (Doc. No. 13). Defendant Borough of Stone Harbor was voluntarily dismissed on October
1, 2015. October 1, 2015 Order (Doc. No. 29). This Court then dismissed Defendant Kehler upon
motion on November 2, 2015. November 2, 2015 Opinion (Doc. No. 34). Defendant Davis was
dismissed from this case on January 15, 2016. January 15, 2016 Order (Doc. No. 46). The
remaining defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment on August 24, 2016. Defs.’
Mot. (Doc. No. 51). Plaintiff filed the instant motion for leave to file sur-reply on October 25,
2016. Pl.’s Mot. (Doc. No. 61).
The court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the moving party “shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). An issue is “material” to the dispute if it could alter the
outcome, and a dispute of a material fact is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the non-moving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In
deciding whether there is any genuine issue for trial, the court is not to weigh evidence or decide
issues of fact. Id. at 248. Because fact and credibility determinations are for the jury, the nonmoving party’s evidence is to be believed and ambiguities construed in her favor. Id. at 255.
Although the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of
material fact, the non-movant likewise must present more than mere allegations or denials to
successfully oppose summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The nonmoving party must
at least present probative evidence from which jury might return a verdict in his favor. Id. at 257.
Furthermore, the nonmoving may not simply allege facts, but instead must “identify those facts
of record which would contradict the facts identified by the movant.” Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J.
v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 311 F.3d 226, 233 (3d Cir. 2002). The movant is entitled to summary
judgment where the non-moving party fails to “make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
As an initial matter, the Court grants Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file sur-reply. Despite
Defendants’ opposition, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s brief sur-reply will not confuse the issues
or spur further motion practice. The Court also notes that Plaintiff has dropped her claims against
Defendants Grunow, Workman, and Hartzell. Pl.’s Opp’n Br. at 13.
A. Section 1983: False Arrest and Malicious Prosecution
Plaintiff alleges in Count I of the FAC that Defendants lacked probable cause to arrest and
subsequently charge her for criminal trespass. FAC ¶¶ 31-38. Therefore, Plaintiff claims that
Defendants violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, actionable under section 1983
and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. False arrest and malicious prosecution have different
elements, therefore the Court shall address each of these claims within Count I separately.
1. False Arrest
An arrest without probable cause is a Fourth Amendment violation actionable under
Section 1983. Patzig v. O'Neil, 577 F.2d 841, 848 (3d Cir. 1978). To succeed on a false arrest
claim, a plaintiff must show: “(1) that there was an arrest; and (2) that the arrest was made
without probable cause.” James v. City of Wilkes–Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 680 (3d Cir. 2012). In
this case, there is no dispute that Defendants were involved in Plaintiff’s arrest. Regarding the
second element, the inquiry “is not whether the person arrested in fact committed the offense but
whether the arresting officers had probable cause to believe the person arrested had committed
the offense.” Dowling v. City of Philadelphia, 855 F.2d 136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988). Probable cause
“is a factual analysis from which the officers on the scene must make an immediate
determination.” La v. Hayducka, 269 F. Supp. 2d 566, 576 (D.N.J. 2003). Probable cause exists
when the facts and circumstances are “sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the
defendant had committed or was committing an offense.” Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 111
(1975). The arresting officer must only reasonably believe at the time of the arrest that an offense
is being committed, a significantly lower burden than proving guilt at trial. See Wright v. City of
Phila., 409 F.3d 595, 602 (3d Cir. 2005).
The probable cause standard does not require that an officer “correctly resolve[s]
conflicting evidence.” Wright, 409 F.3d at 603. Therefore, “a showing of probable cause cannot
be negated simply by demonstrating that an inference of innocence might also have been drawn
from the facts alleged.” Walczyk v. Rio, 496 F.3d 139, 156 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Illinois v.
Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 231-32 (1983)). Thus, a police officer is not required to exhaust all other
possible conclusions that might be drawn from the available evidence other than a criminal act
being committed by the individual placed under arrest. For example, the Third Circuit held that
in a criminal trespass case, where the arrestee claimed that she had the privilege to enter the
building she was suspected of trespassing in, the police did not have to first investigate the
accused’s innocent explanation in order to arrest and charge her. Wright, 409 F.3d at 603-04.
Indeed, an “officer considering the probable cause issue in the context of crime requiring a mens
rea on the part of the suspect will always be required to rely on circumstantial evidence
regarding the state of his or her mind.” Paff v. Kaltenbach, 204 F.3d 425, 437 (3d Cir. 2000).
Furthermore, police officers need not resolve all credibility and factual determinations regarding
a potential defense to have sufficient probable cause to institute an arrest. See Davis v. Malitzki,
451 F. App’x 228, 233 (3d Cir. 2011).
In this case, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not stated a claim for false arrest because
there was probable cause for Plaintiff’s arrest. Defendants’ Brief in Support of Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Defs.’ Br.”) at 6 (Doc. No. 51-1). Specifically, Defendants claim that the
credible report from Mr. DeLaurentis that Plaintiff had entered his home and slept on the couch,
in conjunction with Plaintiff leaving her purse in the DeLaurentis home, provided sufficient
probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for criminal trespass. Defs.’ Br. at 7. Plaintiff’s response
focuses on the lack of evidence that she knowingly entered the DeLaurentis home or that she
acted surreptitiously, or with intention to hide or remain in the home. Pl.’s Opp’n Br. at 9-11.3
Defendants’ response focuses on the issue discussed in footnote 3 of this opinion. Defendants’
Reply Brief (“Defs.’ Reply”) at 2-5 (Doc. No. 60). Plaintiff’s sur-reply further argues that
Defendants lacked probable cause to arrest Plaintiff because her intoxication negates the mens
rea required for a criminal trespass violation. Plaintiff’s Sur-Reply Brief (Pl.’s Sur-Reply”) at 1
(Doc. No. 61).
The Court reiterates that the crime Plaintiff was arrested for and charged with requires
that she knowingly entered the DeLaurentis home knowing that she was not licensed or
privileged to do so. N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(a). It is undisputed that the Defendant officers made the
decision to arrest Plaintiff for criminal trespass before she arrived at the station and informed
them of her potential involuntary intoxication. It is also undisputed that Plaintiff was in the
3. Plaintiff appears to argue that the criminal trespass statute would require a finding that she both entered and
remained in the DeLaurentis house surreptitiously. Pl.’s Opp’n Br. at 9. Plaintiff appears to read the disjunctive “or”
as a conjunction. This reading is untenable. The statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(a), states that “[a] person commits an
offense if knowing that (s)he is not licensed or privileged to do so, (s)he enters or surreptitiously remains in . . . [a]
structure . . . .” Therefore, the entry need not be surreptitious in order for a person to commit a violation.
DeLaurentis home without license or privilege (as it is undisputed that Plaintiff had never been
there nor did she know the DeLaurentis family).
Plaintiff’s argument that she did not knowingly trespass in the DeLaurentis home (as
N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(a) requires) is certainly a valid defense to her trespassing charge, but the
presence of a plausible defense does not mean Defendant officers lacked probable cause. As
stated above, the probable cause analysis centers on whether the circumstances were “sufficient
to warrant a prudent man in believing that the defendant had committed or was committing an
offense.” Gerstein, 420 U.S. at 111. While Plaintiff’s innocent explanation is a “factor in the
probable cause analysis, it is not dispositive.” Wright, 409 F.3d at 603. Defendants were not
required to resolve factual determinations regarding potential defenses or innocent
explanations for Plaintiff’s conduct before arresting her. See Davis, 451 F. App’x at 233;
Wright, 409 F.3d at 603-04. The Court finds that no reasonable jury could find that the facts
and circumstances presented to Defendant officers were insufficient to warrant a reasonable
belief that Plaintiff committed a trespass. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment is granted as to the false arrest claim in Count I.
2. Malicious Prosecution
Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants conduct constituted malicious prosecution in violation
of her Fourth Amendment rights by subjecting Plaintiff to false criminal charges. FAC ¶ 34.
An arrest made without probable cause creates a cause of action for false arrest under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. See Dowling v. City of Philadelphia, 855 F.2d 136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988). “To prove
malicious prosecution under [§ ] 1983 when the claim is under the Fourth Amendment, a
plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the criminal
proceeding ended in his favor; (3) the defendant initiated the proceeding without probable cause;
(4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing the plaintiff to justice;
and (5) the plaintiff suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure as a
consequence of a legal proceeding.” Johnson v. Knorr, 477 F.3d 75, 81-82 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing
Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 318 F.3d 497, 521 (3d Cir. 2003)). “To prevail on [a malicious
prosecution] claim, [a plaintiff] must show that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest.”
Wright, 409 F.3d at 603-04. Therefore, when determining whether to grant Defendants’ motion
for summary judgment as to the claim for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the
determination again rests on whether Defendants had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff.
This Court has already held that Defendants had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for
criminal trespass. See section III.A.1, supra. Therefore, Plaintiff’s claim for malicious
prosecution under section 1983 fails because Defendants had probable cause to effect the arrest.
Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted as to the malicious
prosecution claim in Count I.
B. Section 1983: Wrongful Search and Seizure
Plaintiff further alleges that her arrest constituted a wrongful search and seizure and thus
violated her Fourth Amendment rights. FAC ¶ 40-42.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff does not specify a search which allegedly
violated her rights. The Court will assume, as Defendants have, that Plaintiff is referring to any
search of her person incident to arrest. Defendants correctly note that a search incident to a
lawful arrest is constitutionally reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Defs.’ Br. at 16 (citing
Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 176-77 (2008)). This Court has already determined that
Defendants had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for criminal trespass, therefore any search
conducted incident to Plaintiff’s arrest was reasonable. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment is granted as to Plaintiff’s illegal search claim in Count II.
In order to prevail on a claim for unreasonable seizure or false arrest, Plaintiff must prove
that (1) there was a seizure, and (2) the seizure was constitutionally unreasonable. Berg v. Cty. of
Allegheny, 219 F. 3d 261, 269 (3d Cir. 2000). A seizure occurs when a person is “detained by
means intentionally applied to terminate his freedom of movement.” Id. An arrest clearly
constitutes a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes. Id. In the context of an arrest, the seizure
violates the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable seizures when it is made
without probable cause. Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 636 (3d Cir. 1995). This
Court has already held that Defendants had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for criminal
trespass. See section III.A.1, supra.
Defendants also argue that the length of Plaintiff’s detention was reasonable in light of the
extra time needed to investigate Plaintiff’s assertion that she may have been drugged and
sexually assaulted. Defs.’ Br. at 17-19. Plaintiff responds that she was handcuffed to a bench for
several hours and was not free to leave the police station. Pl.’s Opp’n Br. at 11-12. Defendants
respond that the undisputed timeline of events demonstrate that Plaintiff could not have been
handcuffed to a bench for several hours. Defs.’ Reply Br. at 6-7.
The Court finds that it was reasonable for Plaintiff to remain in custody for approximately
five and a half hours while the police investigated Plaintiff’s claims. The Fourth Amendment
allows “for a brief period of detention to take the administrative steps incident to arrest.”
Gerstein, 420 U.S. at 114. Interviewing the Plaintiff and transporting her to the hospital for
bloodwork and a rape kit to investigate the possibility that Plaintiff was drugged and assaulted
were certainly administrative steps incident to Plaintiff’s arrest. The Court also sees no indication
that Defendants unnecessarily delayed or extended Plaintiff’s detention to conduct these actions.
Plaintiff’s claim for wrongful search and seizure fails because Defendants had probable cause to
arrest her for criminal trespass and Defendants did not detain Plaintiff for an unreasonable
amount of time. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted as to Count
For the reasons stated herein, Defendants’ motions for summary judgment is
GRANTED. Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file sur-reply is GRANTED.
s/ Robert B. Kugler
ROBERT B. KUGLER
United States District Judge
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