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Victor Gonzalez v. Allentown Police Department

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


August 6, 2012

VICTOR GONZALEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLENTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT,: AND DET. THOMAS A. ANDERSON, DEFENDANTS.

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

Memorandum Opinion and Order

Plaintiff Victor Gonzalez alleges that the Allentown Police Department and Detective Thomas E. Anderson unlawfully incarcerated him, in violation of his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. *fn1 Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Court will grant Defendants' motion, for the reasons set forth below.

I. Background

On June 24, 2008, Plaintiff was convicted of sexual assault in Connecticut. *fn2 The Court infers that he later moved to Pennsylvania, and was accused of failing to register as a sex offender here. Detective Anderson applied for an arrest warrant on January 19, 2010. *fn3 A magistrate judge signed an arrest warrant for Plaintiff based on his failure to register as a seX offender in Pennsylvania as required by 42 Pa. C.S. § 9795.2.*fn4

On January 26, 2010, Plaintiff was arrested on an unrelated bench warrant pertaining to a parole violation on a prior driving under the influence (DUI) conviction in Northampton County. *fn5

On February 5, 2010, after a hearing, Plaintiff was ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence on the DUI conviction.*fn6

On June 14, 2010, the Megan's Law charges were nolle prosequied. *fn7 However, Plaintiff was transferred back to the Northampton County Prison on July 16, 2010, *fn8 and remained incarcerated there for an additional six months. *fn9 Plaintiff alleges that the six-month incarceration following the nolle prosequi of the Megan's Law charges violated his constitutional rights. *fn10

II. Standard of Review

Dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is appropriate where a plaintiff's "plain statement" does not possess enough substance to show that plaintiff is entitled to relief. *fn11 In determining whether a motion to dismiss is appropriate the court must consider those facts alleged in the complaint, accepting the allegations as true and drawing all logical inferences in favor of the non-moving party. *fn12 Courts are not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. *fn13 Something more than a mere possibility of a claim must be alleged; the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." *fn14 The Complaint must set forth "direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." *fn15 The court has no duty to "conjure up unpleaded facts that might turn a frivolous . . . action into a substantial one."*fn16

In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. *fn17 Public records includes "criminal case dispositions such as convictions or mistrials." *fn18 Here, the Court finds that it may consider Defendants' Exhibits B (Plaintiff's listing on Connecticut's Sexual Offenders Registry) and H (the criminal docket regarding Plaintiff's DUI conviction, including the ruling that he must serve the balance of his sentence, which the judge entered on February 5, 2010 after a hearing) without converting the Motion to Dismiss to a Motion for Summary Judgment, as those exhibits contain public records regarding Plaintiff, and Plaintiff is on notice of the contents. *fn19

III. Discussion

A claim for cruel and unusual punishment requires that a prison official's act deprived the plaintiff of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" *fn20 and also that the prison official acted with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." *fn21 The due process clause provides an individual must receive adequate notice and opportunity for a hearing prior to any deprivation of life, liberty, or property. *fn22

Plaintiff alleges that his continued incarceration, from June through December 2010, after the charges against him were nolle prosequied was cruel and unusual punishment and thus violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff also argues that his continued incarceration deprived him of liberty without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Defendants argue that Plaintiff was incarcerated from January 26, 2010 until December 22, 2010, for violation of parole on his DUI conviction. *fn23 The criminal proceedings against Plaintiff under Megan's Law took place entirely within the same time frame. The Court finds that Plaintiff's continued incarceration after the Megan's Law charges were nolle prosequied on June 16, 2010 was proper, because he was incarcerated pursuant to violation of parole on an unrelated DUI conviction and not for failure to register under Megan's Law. Claims for false arrest or false imprisonment are not viable when a plaintiff is incarcerated on unrelated charges, as any detention does not deprive him of liberty. *fn24 Thus, because Plaintiff was imprisoned from January 26, 2010 through December 22, 2010, for violation of parole on a prior DUI conviction, and he does not allege that he was deprived of due process with regard to his incarceration for that parole violation, the Court finds that Plaintiff was not deprived of any liberty interest without due process of law when he was incarcerated from June 16, 2010, when the Megan's Law charges were nolle prosequied , through December 22, 2010, when he completed his sentence for the DUI. Plaintiff sets forth no facts alleging that he was subject to cruel and unusual punishment during his detention. Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

Additionally, the Court finds that Detective Anderson is entitled to qualified immunity in this matter. "The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials 'from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" *fn25 The only facts alleged with regard to Detective Anderson relate to his application for an arrest warrant for Plaintiff's failure to comply with Megan's Law. Plaintiff does not allege that Detective Anderson violated Plaintiff's clearly established constitutional rights in applying for that warrant, nor does he allege that the warrant was facially invalid. The Complaint does not allege that Detective Anderson was in any way responsible for Plaintiff's incarceration for an additional six months after his Megan's law charges were dismissed. Accordingly, as Plaintiff has failed to allege that Detective Anderson violated a clearly established right, Detective Anderson is entitled to qualified immunity.

IV. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be granted. *fn26


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