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Garry Ray Kline v. Kenneth Hall

December 11, 2012

GARRY RAY KLINE, PLAINTIFF
v.
KENNETH HALL, TERRY DEWITT, AND PRESTON STRAYER, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Garry Ray Kline, filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Defendants are Kenneth Hall, Terry DeWitt, and Preston Strayer, three Franklin County police officers.Plaintiff alleges that defendants DeWitt and Hall arrested him at a DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoint, allegedly suspecting him of driving under the influence of alcohol, but that they lacked probable cause for the arrest. Defendant Strayer subsequently charged Plaintiff with driving under the influence, also without probable cause.

Plaintiff makes two federal civil-rights claims, one for malicious prosecution against all three defendants and the other for false arrest against DeWitt and Hall. We are considering two motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state claim, one filed by defendant Hall and the other by defendant Strayer. Both motions challenge only the malicious prosecution claim.

II. Standard of Review

In considering a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), "[w]e 'accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoted case omitted).

A complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Nonetheless, a complaint has to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 at 1974. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court "'is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

With this standard in mind, we set forth the background to this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it.

III. Background

On or about the night of September 3-4, 2010, a police officer waived Plaintiff through a DUI checkpoint. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 12). Nonetheless, defendant DeWitt stopped Plaintiff and alleged that he "smelled of alcohol and later alleged plaintiff spoke as if he were 'thick tongued.'" (Id. ¶ 13).*fn1 Officer DeWitt "administered, in a throughly flawed and incomplete fashion, a field sobriety test," "[knowing] the test was faulty and was not being conducted properly." (Id. ¶¶ 14-15).

Defendants Hall and DeWitt then arrested Plaintiff and handcuffed him. (Id. ¶ 16). Even though both Hall and DeWitt knew there was no probable cause, defendant Hall "drove the plaintiff to a local hospital for a blood test . . . ." (Id. ¶ 17). This test "was administered to the plaintiff against his will" because he was threatened with the loss of his driver's license if he did not comply. (Id.). The blood alcohol test "indicat[ed] plaintiff was well below the lowest legal level for blood alcohol." (Id. ¶ 18).

About ten days later, "[o]n September 13, 2010 the defendant Strayer charged plaintiff with one count of 'Driving under the Influence --- General Impairment." (Id. ¶ 22).*fn2 The charge was not supported by probable cause. (Id. ¶ 25). Probable cause was lacking "because the field sobriety test (and the checkpoint) conducted by the police was totally flawed both procedurally and substantively and because "the hospital's blood alcohol test indicated no unlawful level of intoxication." (Id. ¶ 28). "Officers DeWitt and Hall joined Strayer in his baseless prosecution of the plaintiff . . . ." (Id. ¶ 8). On October 13, 2011, Plaintiff was found not guilty following a bench trial, with the judge writing that the Commonwealth had failed to establish every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27).

In Count I of the complaint, Plaintiff makes a federal malicious prosecution claim against all three defendants for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In Count II, Plaintiff makes a federal false arrest claim against defendants DeWitt and Hall for his ...


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