Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Calhoun v. Buck

United States District Court, D. Utah

April 5, 2019

JAIME CALHOUN, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER TERRY BUCK, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Dustin B. Pead, Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION[1]

         On February 27, 2016, Defendant Terry Buck (“Defendant” or “Trooper Buck”) arrested Plaintiff Jaime Calhoun (“Plaintiff or “Ms. Calhoun”) and issued a citation for driving under the influence (“DUI”) in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 41-6A-502. The charge was subsequently dismissed. Ms. Calhoun now brings this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Trooper Buck did not have probable cause to detain and cite her for DUI after her breath test returned a breath alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of .037.

         This matter is currently before the court on Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint for failure to state a claim.[2] Trooper Buck also asserts qualified immunity.[3] Oral argument on Defendant's motion was held on February 21, 2019.[4]

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's second amended complaint[5] and other documents attached to the pleading.[6] A court may “consider attached exhibits and documents incorporated into the complaint, so long as the parties do not dispute the documents' authenticity.”[7] The court views the complaint in a light most favorable to Ms. Calhoun.[8]

         On February 27, 2016, at approximately 1:15 a.m., Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Terry Buck observed Plaintiff's vehicle on 1200 East 3300 South in Salt Lake City, Utah.[9] A vehicle registration check revealed no insurance on file, and Trooper Buck initiated a traffic stop of Plaintiff's vehicle.[10] Ms. Calhoun was the driver and sole occupant of the car.[11] During the traffic stop, Trooper Buck observed:

a. the odor of alcohol coming from the interior of Plaintiff's vehicle and from Ms. Calhoun's person;[12]
b. Plaintiff's eyes appeared “glassy”;[13]
c. Plaintiff admitted she had consumed one alcoholic beverage around 10:00 p.m;[14]
d. Plaintiff's pupils were equal in size, but she did not have “smooth tracking in a cursory check of her eyes;”[15] and
f. Ms. Calhoun reported that she had taken ibuprofen, but had not taken any medication that would impair her driving.[16]

         As a result, Defendant administered Field Sobriety Tests. During the tests, Trooper Buck observed:

g. during the walk and turn test, Plaintiff “stepped out of the test position, missed heel to toe, stepped off line and raised her arms greater than six inches from her side”;[17]
h. Ms. Calhoun “swayed forwad [sic] and backward and during the check for vertical gaze nystagmus almost fell over backwards”;[18]
i. during the ABC test, Plaintiff was unable to recite the alphabet from “D to Q” and stated that she needed to start with the letter A;[19]
j. Ms. Calhoun was unable to complete the backwards counting test and could not count from 65 to 42 backward;[20] and
k. during the one leg stand test, Plaintiff “swayed and put her foot down.”[21]

         Next, Trooper Buck administered a preliminary breath test (PBT). He observed Ms. Calhoun attempt to deliberately defeat the test by not blowing into the PBT.[22] After three attempts, Ms. Calhoun provided a sufficient breath sample which showed positive for alcohol.[23] Trooper Buck arrested Ms. Calhoun for DUI.[24]

         After arrest, Trooper Buck asked Ms. Calhoun if she needed any items from her vehicle. Ms. Calhoun disclosed there was Xanax in her purse and that she had taken Xanax at approximately three or four in the afternoon.[25] Ms. Calhoun submitted to a breath test on an Intoxilyzer machine in Trooper Buck's vehicle. The Intoxilyzer returned a result of .037 BAC.[26] After obtaining the Intoxilyzer result, Defendant became concerned that Xanax was a factor in Ms. Calhoun's field sobriety test results.[27] Ms. Calhoun would not consent to a blood draw, so Trooper Buck sought and obtained a warrant. In his application for the warrant, Trooper Buck stated:

[b]ased upon the SFSTs and the admission of the prescription Drugs I believe there are medications or controlled substances in the subject's body, so I requested a blood test . . . .”[28]

         The affidavit further alleged evidence of “[d]riving under the [i]nfluence, in violation of Utah Code Ann. Section 41-6a-502, specifically, the substance [a]lcohol, prescription drugs and controlled substan[ce] [sic].”[29] The court granted the search warrant application and a blood sample was taken and submitted for analysis. Defendant issued Plaintiff a citation for DUI in violation of Utah Code Ann. §41-6A-502, and booked her into the Salt Lake County jail.

         Plaintiff's blood sample subsequently tested positive for alcohol (0.03) and Alprazolam (Xanax).[30] On May 4, 2016, the prosecutor dismissed Plaintiff's DUI charge, [31] and several days later the court dismissed the remaining charge for failure to show insurance.[32]

         Following dismissal of the criminal charges, Plaintiff initiated this federal action for violation of her constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.[33] On September 5, 2018, Ms. Calhoun filed a second amended complaint alleging claims for illegal detention and malicious prosecution against Trooper Buck.[34]

         ANALYSIS

         I. Standard of Review

          To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, “a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.”[35] Section 1983 permits an injured person to “seek damages against an individual who has violated his or her federal rights while acting under color of state law.”[36] Standing alone, the statute does not create substantive civil rights; rather, § 1983 serves as a procedural mechanism for enforcement of existing federal and constitutional rights.[37] Where such as here, a defendant asserts qualified immunity, the plaintiff “must allege facts sufficient to show (assuming they are true) that the defendant[ ] plausibly violated [the plaintiff's] constitutional rights, and that those rights were clearly established at the time.”[38]

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court assumes the truth of well-pleaded facts and draws reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.[39]Conclusory pleadings “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ”[40] and a claim survives only if “there is plausibility in the complaint.”[41] “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.”[42]

         II. Failure To State A Claim.

         Ms. Calhoun fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution and illegal detention because her arrest, detention and citation for DUI were supported by probable cause and there was no constitutional or statutory violation.

         a. Arrest, Detention and Citation for DUI Supported By Probable Cause.

         “Probable cause to arrest exists where, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person would believe that an offense has been committed by the person arrested.”[43]Probable cause is assessed using an objective standard and determined at the time of the arrest.[44]“An arrest is not invalid under the Fourth Amendment simply because the police officer subjectively intended to base the arrest on an offense for which probable cause is lacking, so long as “‘the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify' the arrest.”[45] Under this standard, Trooper Buck is “entitled to qualified immunity if a reasonable officer could have believed that probable cause existed to arrest or detain” Ms. Calhoun.[46]

         Ms. Calhoun concedes that prior to administration of the Intoxilyzer breath test, Trooper Buck had probable cause to arrest her for DUI. She asserts, however, that the .037 breath test vitiated any probable cause and therefore Defendant had an affirmative duty to release her. Plaintiff further contends that after obtaining her breath test result Trooper Buck abandoned his acting under the influence of alcohol theory and improperly pursued a drug-related DUI for which there was insufficient probable cause.

         At the time of Ms. Calhoun's arrest, Utah's DUI statute stated. in in relevant part:

(1) A person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state if the person:
(a) has sufficient alcohol in the person's body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams [of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood] or greater at the time of the test; [or]
(b) is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle.[47]

         Thus, although Ms. Calhoun's BAC of .037 precluded prosecution under subsection (1)(a) of the statute, it did not vitiate probable cause under subsection (1)(b). Subsection (1)(b) clearly allows for prosecution of a DUI with a BAC below .08, if an individual is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both “to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle.”[48] Here, there was sufficient indicia to support the conclusion that Ms. Calhoun was unable to safely operate her vehicle, and the totality of the circumstances gave Trooper Buck probable cause. While Trooper Buck did not observe any unsafe driving, Ms. Calhoun's glassy eyes, the odor of alcohol, admission to drinking, difficulties both physically and cognitively on the field sobriety tests, positive PBT and an admission to taking Xanax provided sufficient probable cause to establish that Plaintiff was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both, and incapable of safely operating a vehicle.[49]

         In turn, Trooper Buck was not required to believe Ms. Calhoun's qualifications, [50] or pick a specific theory under the statute. Indeed, at the time of arrest, a reasonable officer may not be able to determine whether the indicia of intoxication stem from the use of alcohol, drugs or both. As such, an arrest is considered lawful “as long as probable cause exists for some offense.”[51]

         b. No Claim For Malicious Prosecution.

         The existence of probable cause bars a Section 1983 claim for malicious prosecution.[52]“Where . . no Fourth Amendment violation occurred because the officer possessed probable cause to arrest and charge the individual, ‘the inquiry ends and the officer is entitled to qualified immunity.'”[53]

         Thus, because Trooper Buck had probable cause, Ms. Calhoun's claim for malicious prosecution must fail.

         c. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.