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Brown v. Turk

May 7, 2009

CAMILLA BROWN
v.
TRACEY TURK, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.

MEMORANDUM

In this § 1983 action, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated her civil rights when she was arrested at her home on June 6, 2007. She claims that the defendants, a police officer and a detective, unlawfully detained her, searched her home, and confiscated her car without probable cause. She also claims that they fabricated charges and evidence against her because she refused to provide them information regarding her boyfriend, who the defendants suspected had been involved in a robbery the previous day. The plaintiff argues that the defendants' actions violate her rights under the Fourth Amendment. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. Because issues of material fact remain, the Court will deny the defendants' motion.

I. Background

On the afternoon of June 6, 2007, the plaintiff was at home with her three-month-old daughter preparing to pick up her nine-year-old daughter from school when she received a telephone call from a neighbor informing her that a police officer and a detective were outside of her home looking at her car. Deposition of Camilla Brown at 12:7-12:12 ("Brown Dep."), attached as Ex. A to Pl.'s Opp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp.").

The plaintiff came to her door and asked the two officers, Officer Tracey Turk and Detective Joseph Cremen, why they were looking at her car. They replied that the car had been seen the previous day at the scene of a robbery. According to Officer Turk, he had been told that a man named "Rome" had the vehicle, and also had been told where the car could be found. The officers asked the plaintiff how long the car had been at her home. She replied that it had been parked there since about 1:30 or 1:45 p.m. the previous day, except for when she and her boyfriend, Jerome, went to pick up her daughter at about 2:00 or 2:30 p.m. Brown Dep. 12:12-12:22, 13:2-13:5; Deposition of Tracey Turk 19:16-19:20 ("Turk Dep."), attached as Ex. A to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Mot.").

After this exchange, one of the defendants told the plaintiff that the police were going to tow her vehicle to have it dusted for fingerprints. The police also asked her for some information about the man named "Rome." The plaintiff answered that he was her daughter's father. She told the officer that she did not know his last name and that she was not going to answer any other questions because she did not know what was going on.*fn1

One of the officers also asked the plaintiff whether Jerome lived at her home. She replied that he did not. According to the plaintiff, Jerome merely spent some nights there and kept some clothing and other items there. The plaintiff also refused the officers' request to search her home without a warrant. Brown Dep. 13:6-13:16, 15:5-15:7, 15:15-15:23, 23:15-24:25.

At some point after the defendants left the plaintiff's home that afternoon, another police vehicle arrived. According to the plaintiff, she was told by one of the officers that nobody could enter or leave her home. In addition, a police vehicle towed her car. At about 6:30 p.m., Detective Cremen returned to the plaintiff's home with other officers to execute a search warrant. The plaintiff asked Detective Cremen to see the search warrant. According to the plaintiff, he did not show it to her, and she did not see a copy of the warrant until the defendants were deposed in this matter. Detective Cremen has stated that he does not remember whether he showed the plaintiff the warrant. Brown Dep. 17:20-17:24, 18:16-18:19, 19:7-19:17, 21:10-21:16; Deposition of Joseph Cremen 23:23-24:1 ("Cremen Dep."), Defs.' Mot. Ex. B.*fn2

According to the defendants, during the search of the plaintiff's home, Detective Cremen found a white, powdery substance in a small plastic bag on a shelf in the plaintiff's bedroom closet. According to the plaintiff, he did not show her the substance. Detective Cremen states that he later performed a field test on the substance, and that it tested positive for cocaine.*fn3 The police also found in the plaintiff's bedroom a driver's license, Arizona traffic ticket, and paternity papers for Jerome Woods, along with some men's clothing. Brown Dep. 21:3-21:6, 22:13-22:15, 24:7-24:12; Cremen Dep. 24:19-24:24; 29:9-29:15, 29:23-29:25.

After searching the plaintiff's home, Detective Cremen told the plaintiff that they had found cocaine and that she was under arrest. The plaintiff told Detective Cremen that the cocaine was not hers and that she did not know anything about it. Cremen Dep. 27:14-27:19.

The plaintiff was handcuffed and transported to the 35th District, where she was placed in a cell unit at approximately 8:00 p.m. At about 10:45 p.m., she was questioned by Detective Cremen. According to the plaintiff, he told her that she was only being charged with "simple possession" and that he could probably "make this go away in court" if the plaintiff gave him information. Brown Dep. 25:10-25:11, 29:2-29:5, 29:12-29:14, 42:4-42:5, 42:14-42:16.

The arrest report prepared by Detective Cremen lists the charges against the plaintiff as hindering apprehension and possession of cocaine. The plaintiff was later prosecuted for possession of cocaine and possession with intent to deliver cocaine. After a preliminary hearing, the charges against the plaintiff were dismissed for lack of evidence. See Defs.' Mot. Ex. F; Pl.'s Opp. Ex. E.

II. Discussion*fn4

The plaintiff's suit is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest and false imprisonment in violation of the Fourth Amendment.*fn5 The defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment (1) because there was probable cause to arrest the plaintiff for the crimes of hindering apprehension and possession of a controlled substance, and (2) because they are entitled to ...


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