c. Spangler: Arrest without probable cause; unlawful seizure of person and deprivation of liberty without due process; excessive force against Brose, Dell and Mattern; and violation of the Eighth Amendment
16. State police defendants raise the defense of qualified immunity to the claims for arrest without probable cause, excessive force and unlawful search;
Mattern raises the same defense to the claim for arrest without probable cause. Officials are entitled to qualified immunity if "their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982). The court must focus on the "objective legal reasonableness" of the conduct and defendants bear the burden of demonstrating an entitlement. Id. at 815. Qualified immunity should be denied only if "a reasonable jury could find that the unlawfulness of [defendants'] actions was so 'apparent' that no reasonable [official] could have believed his actions were lawful." Lee v. Mihalich, 847 F.2d 66, 69 (3d Cir. 1988).
17. Arrest without probable cause. Probable cause exists if "'at the moment the arrest was made . . . the facts and circumstances within [defendants'] knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing' that [plaintiff] had violated [the law]." Hunter v. Bryant, 116 L. Ed. 2d 589, 112 S. Ct. 534, 537 (1991) (quoting Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 13 L. Ed. 2d 142, 85 S. Ct. 223 (1964)). Defendants' argument proceeds as follows: Even assuming plaintiffs were arrested immediately upon emerging from the swimming hole, there was probable cause to arrest plaintiffs at that time for the burglary. Alternatively, (1) the stop was an investigatory stop, not an arrest; (2) there was reasonable suspicion that plaintiffs had committed the burglary; and (3) reasonable suspicion developed into probable cause to arrest for the burglary before transportation to the police station. Alternatively, there was reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop plaintiffs for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. These arguments will be addressed in turn.
18. Under plaintiff's facts, Dr. Govette must have identified plaintiffs after they were arrested. Therefore, the arrests were supported only by Mattern's knowledge of the Govette incident and the fact that plaintiffs were at West Seven Stars Road, where the suspect car disappeared. Even that knowledge is an objectively unreasonable basis for defendants' belief that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiffs.
19. It is well settled that officers may temporarily detain a person upon "reasonable suspicion that criminal activity may be afoot." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968). The scope of the stop must be reasonably related to the suspicious circumstances, though police officers may take steps "reasonably necessary to protect their personal safety and maintain the status quo during the course of the stop." United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 235, 83 L. Ed. 2d 604, 105 S. Ct. 675 (1985). Those steps must be the "least intrusive means" necessary to effect the goals of the stop. Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229, 103 S. Ct. 1319 (1983).
20. Defendants claim that, even if Berger and Nelson were handcuffed immediately after coming out of the woods, the procedure was merely a permissible Terry stop in the investigation of the burglary and required only reasonable suspicion. The stop only developed into an arrest during transportation to the police station, when the police did have probable cause to arrest for the burglary.
21. The detention of Berger and Nelson was not merely a Terry stop. Other circuits have addressed whether handcuffs turn an administrative stop into an arrest. Many courts have held that handcuffs do not transform a stop to an arrest if they are needed to ensure safety
or to ensure that the suspect does not flee.
22. Here only a strained interpretation of the events supports a conclusion that Berger or Nelson was dangerous or inclined to flee. If Mattern's knowledge of the burglary and the shots fired at the field did not support the conclusion that plaintiffs were the armed burglars, plaintiffs posed no threat of danger or of fleeing. Therefore, the handcuffing of plaintiffs would be an arrest not supported by probable cause.
23. Spangler admits that he ran after Dell began chasing him. Spangler, therefore, may have presented a risk of flight although there still was no basis for believing that he was dangerous. Even if his stop were merely a Terry stop, his detention still required reasonable suspicion. Again, the only basis for reasonable suspicion was Mattern's knowledge of the earlier burglary. It was apparent that Mattern's knowledge that a burglary had taken place did not create even reasonable suspicion that Spangler committed the burglary.
24. If plaintiffs (or at least Spangler) were detained in a proper Terry stop initially, probable cause had to have developed during transportation to the police station, when defendants admit the stop developed into an arrest. By that time, defendants learned of Dr. Govette's tentative ID. Even under defendants' version of the facts, the ID was merely tentative, and corroborated by little else. Therefore, the belief that probable cause developed in the car is also objectively unreasonable.
25. Finally, defendants argue that the events created reasonable suspicion or probable cause that plaintiffs were guilty of public drunkenness
and disorderly conduct.
Plaintiffs admit that they drank earlier at a club and brought a six-pack of beer to the swimming hole. But neither plaintiffs' nor defendants' account permits the inference that plaintiffs appeared drunk and disorderly immediately upon emerging from the swimming hole. Defendants' belief that there was reasonable suspicion or probable cause that plaintiffs were guilty of either the burglary or drunk and disorderly conduct was objectively unreasonable.
For these reasons I will deny state police defendants' and Mattern's requests for qualified immunity on the claim of arrest without probable cause.
26. Spangler's excessive force claim. Spangler claims that Brose and Dell used excessive force during his arrest and that Mattern used excessive force at the police station.
An excessive force claim "in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other 'seizure' of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its 'reasonableness' standard." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443, 109 S. Ct. 1865 (1989). The analysis balances the nature of the intrusion against the governmental interests at stake. Id. at 396. The Supreme Court established three factors for the factfinder to consider: (1) the severity of the crime at issue, (2) whether the suspect is an immediate threat to officers or others, (3) whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or fleeing. Id.
27. Several cases illustrate the fact-specific nature of the excessive force analysis. In one Third Circuit case, the court acknowledged that it might have been excessive force during an arrest if the police had "pulled [plaintiff's] feet out from under him and dragged him down a flight of stairs," fracturing his ribs. Brown v. Borough of Chambersburg, 903 F.2d 274 (3d Cir. 1990).
Another court held that tight handcuffs and pushing suspects was justified where suspects were intoxicated and resisting arrest. Greiner v. City of Champlin, 816 F. Supp. 528, 542 (D. Minn. 1993). Still another court held that manhandling and pushing suspects was unwarranted. Melson v. Kroger Company, 578 F. Supp. 691, 697 (S.D. Ohio 1983).
28. Under Graham, the determination of whether defendants' force was excessive depends on the crime Spangler may have committed, the threat he posed, and his risk of flight. Defendants' entitlement to qualified immunity depends on the reasonableness of the conclusion that the force used was not excessive. Defendants' initial belief that Spangler was guilty of burglary or even drunk and disorderly conduct was unreasonable. Although Spangler did flee from the police, no evidence suggests that he was armed. Therefore, forcefully tackling him and holding him at the scene was unreasonable, precluding qualified immunity on this claim.
29. Nelson's unlawful search claim. In one footnote, defendants explain that the search of Nelson's van was justified under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. United States v. Rickus, 737 F.2d 360, 367 (3d Cir. 1984). The search was lawful if defendants had "probable cause to suspect that the automobile contained evidence of a crime." 737 F.2d at 367. Defendants searched the van before Dr. Govette's ID. This claim, therefore, rests on the officers' initial belief that plaintiffs had committed the crime of burglary. Because that belief was unreasonable, the search was also unreasonable, precluding qualified immunity on this claim.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE CLAIMS
30. Arrest without probable cause, excessive force, unlawful search. Based upon the same analysis of the facts, I will deny summary judgment on plaintiffs' claims for arrest without probable cause, excessive force and unlawful search. There are outstanding genuine issues of material fact that, if resolved in favor of the plaintiff, would permit a reasonable jury to find for plaintiffs on these claims. Where, as here, the facts are confusing and highly controverted, the court should not be the one to piece together events and manufacture reasonable inferences. The case should be presented to a jury for a careful consideration of all the evidence.
31. Eighth Amendment violations. Nelson and Spangler bring Eighth Amendment claims for their treatment during the arrests. These claims lack merit because the Eighth Amendment applies only to prisoners who have been convicted of a crime. Huffaker v. Bucks County District Attorney's Office, 758 F. Supp. 287, 290 (E.D. Pa. 1991). I will therefore grant the motion for summary judgment on this claim.
32. Due process. Plaintiffs state separate claims for arrest without probable cause and for unlawful seizure of person and deprivation of liberty without due process. These claims are based on the exact same occurrence -- the allegedly improper arrests of plaintiffs. Cases do not analyze this type of claim as a due process violation. Rather, the claims are properly analyzed as Fourth Amendment violations for arrest without probable cause. Cf. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443, 109 S. Ct. 1865 (1989) (excessive force claim properly analyzed under "Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures of the person"). I will therefore grant summary judgment for defendants on this claim.
Therefore, it is ORDERED that:
1. Summary judgment and the request for qualified immunity is DENIED as to
a. Berger's claim for arrest without probable cause
b. Nelson's claim for arrest without probable cause
c. Nelson's claim for unlawful search of his van
d. Spangler's claim for arrest without probable cause
e. Spangler's claim for excessive force against defendants Brose and Dell
2. Summary judgment for defendants is GRANTED as to the claims against them for Eighth Amendment violations and unlawful seizure of person and deprivation of liberty without due process.
ANITA B. BRODY, J.