United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
was speaking with his cousin in the area of East
21st Street and Edgemont Avenue when his cousin
gave him some money for a loan and he gave his cousin a small
package. A Pennsylvania police officer observed this
interaction, stopped Plaintiff's cousin, and found 0.4
grams of marijuana. A second officer arrested Plaintiff and
he was charged with possession with intent to deliver a
controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Plaintiff, the defendant in the underlying criminal action,
was ultimately acquitted after a jury trial. He now brings
claims against the arresting officers, the Commissioner of
the Police Department, and the City of Chester (together,
“Defendants”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well
as state law claims arising out of Plaintiff's arrest and
prosecution, all of which Defendants move to dismiss.
16, 2015, Detective Marc Barag, an officer with the City of
Chester, Pennsylvania Police Department, set up a hidden
narcotics surveillance operation in the area of East
21st Street and Edgemont Avenue in Chester,
Pennsylvania. At approximately 11:05 a.m., Detective Barag
observed Plaintiff, Devon Young, speaking with Basil Evans on
the sidewalk in the vicinity of the surveillance operation.
Young and Evans engaged in a brief conversation. Before the
conversation concluded, Evans handed Young money.
to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Officer William
Carey, Detective Barag observed Young provide a small package
to Evans after the two exchanged money.Officer Barag
executed a pedestrian stop on Evans a few blocks away and
found a clear pink bag containing 0.4 grams of marijuana. As
a result, Evans was placed under arrest and transported to
Chester Police Headquarters for processing. Two hours later,
Officer Carey observed Young on the 2100 block of Madison
Street. Officer Goldschmidt apprehended and arrested him. A
search incident to Young's arrest did not reveal any
narcotics or drug paraphernalia, though the officers did
recover $184 in cash and a blue flip cell phone.
was charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver a
Controlled Substance in violation of 35 Pa. Stat. Ann.
780-113(a)(30) and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in
violation of 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. 780-113(a)(32). He was held in
lieu of $50, 000 bail for ten months at George Hill
Correctional Facility until his trial, which commenced on May
3, 2016. At trial, Evans testified in Young's defense.
Evans testified that his meeting with Young on July 16, 2015
had nothing to do with drugs. Instead, Evans and Young are
cousins and the two discussed an upcoming family reunion.
Evans further testified that Young asked for a loan and Evans
gave him some money before parting ways. The jury found
Plaintiff not guilty on both charges. Plaintiff is suing
Officer Carey, Detective Barag, and Police Commissioner
Joseph Bail for false arrest and malicious prosecution under
42 U.S.C § 1983, as well as the City of Chester,
Pennsylvania, under Monell. Plaintiff also brings state law
charges of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious
prosecution, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction
of emotional distress. Defendants have filed a Motion to
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
“Threadbare” recitations of the elements of a
claim supported only by “conclusory statements”
will not suffice. Id. at 683. Rather, a plaintiff
must allege some facts to raise the allegation above the
level of mere speculation. Great Western Mining &
Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 176 (3d
Cir. 2010) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Furthermore, a
court may grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) if
there is a dispositive issue of law. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989).
analyzing a motion to dismiss legal conclusions are
disregarded, well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as
true, and a determination is made whether those facts state a
“plausible claim for relief.” Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).
Generally that determination is made upon a review of the
allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached
appropriately to the complaint and matters of public record.
Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus.,
Inc. 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Here, where
Defendants have attached to their motion to dismiss
Plaintiff's Criminal Complaint and the Docket Sheet from
the underlying state court proceeding, those may properly be
considered. See S. Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Wah
Kwong Shipping Ground Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir.
for false arrest under Section 1983 is analyzed under the
“reasonableness” standard of the Fourth
Amendment. See Berg v. County of Allegheny, 219 F.3d
261, 268-69 (3d. Cir. 2000). “The Fourth Amendment
prohibits arrest without probable cause.” Id.
at 269. Therefore, to succeed on a claim of false arrest
under Section 1983, the Plaintiff must show that the
arresting officers, Barag and Carey, lacked probable cause to
arrest him. See Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d
628, 634 (3d Cir. 1995). “Probable cause exists
whenever reasonably trustworthy information or circumstances
within a police officer's knowledge are sufficient to
warrant a person of reasonable caution to conclude that an
offense has been committed by the person being
arrested.” United States v. Myers, 308 F.3d
251, 255 (3d Cir. 2002). The test is an objective one based
on “the facts available to the officers at the moment
of arrest.” Barna v. City of Perth Amboy, 42
F.3d 809, 819 (3d Cir. 1994). Moreover, “evidence that
may prove insufficient to establish guilt at trial may still
be sufficient to find the arrest occurred within the bounds
of the law.” Id.
question of whether probable cause exists for an arrest is
generally a question of fact for the jury. See Merkle v.
Upper Dublin Sch. Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 788 (3d Cir.
2000) (“Generally, the question of probable cause in a
section 1983 damages suit is one for the jury.”).
Where, however, the facts alleged by the Plaintiff, taken as
true and drawing all inferences in favor of the Plaintiff,
would not support a finding of liability, dismissal is
appropriate. See Olson v. Ako, 2018 WL 1391708, at
*5 (3d Cir. 2018).
case, the facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint
establish that Defendants had probable cause to arrest
Plaintiff for possession of drug paraphernalia in violation
of 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 780-113(32), an ungraded
misdemeanor. The relevant statute prohibits “[t]he use
of, or possession with intent to use, drug paraphernalia for
the purpose of . . . introducing into the human body a
controlled substance in violation of this act.” 35 Pa.
Stat. Ann. § 780-113(32). Specifically, Plaintiff
alleges that Officer Carey observed Plaintiff speaking with
Evans and exchanging money for a small package and then
walking away. Evans was arrested with 0.4 grams of marijuana
immediately after this conversation. Plaintiff's
Complaint does not contradict Officer Carey's
observations. The Complaint merely puts forward an alternate
interpretation of the events. Plaintiff alleges that instead
of discussing drugs, he spoke with Evans, his cousin, about
an upcoming family reunion and that he asked Evans for ...