United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER: •
GRANTING  DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT; AND • DENYING 
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
Nuffer District Judge
Officer Burk Christian (“Officer Christian”) and
the City of St. George (“the City”) (collectively
“Defendants”) move for summary judgment
(“Motion for Summary Judgment”) on all three
causes of action contained in Plaintiff Russel Teague’s
(“Plaintiff”) Complaint. Plaintiff opposes the
motion,  and Defendants have replied in support. In
conjunction with filing the Motion for Summary Judgment,
Defendants also filed the Rule 11 Motion for Sanctions
(“Motion for Sanctions”). Plaintiff
opposes that motion and Defendants have
replied in support of it.
first two causes of action are brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Here, no reasonable finder of fact could
conclude from the undisputed facts that Defendants violated
Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Summary judgment is
appropriate for Defendants on the first two causes of action
of Plaintiff’s Complaint. Summary Judgment for
Defendants is also appropriate on Plaintiff’s third
cause of action for injunctive relief.
although it is not the subject of the Motion for Summary
Judgment, Plaintiff’s Complaint also contains a claim
for class certification. Because Plaintiff’s causes of
action fail, Plaintiff’s class certification is moot.
For the reasons stated in the following memorandum decision,
the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
the circumstances here make it difficult to conclude that
Plaintiff’s counsel should be subject to sanctions
under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11. Defendants’ Motion
for Sanctions is DENIED.
OF UNDISPUTED FACTS
First Cause of Action Fails Because Officer Christian had
Probable Cause to Arrest Plaintiff
Officer Christian Had Probable Cause to Arrest Plaintiff,
Plaintiff’s Cause of Action for Malicious Prosecution
Plaintiff Cannot Prevail on His § 1983 Causes of Action,
He Cannot Seek Injunctive Relief and His Class Certification
is Moot. . ........................................ 17
Counsel Will Not Be Sanctioned at This Time
OF UNDISPUTED FACTS
March 25, 2016, Plaintiff Russel Teague was arrested by St.
George Police Officer Burkeley Christian for operating under
the influence, pursuant to Utah Code § 41-6a-
502. Officer Stan Thompson and Officer Joseph
Watson, who also work for the St. George Police Department,
were also present.
or around 11:48 am on the above date, Plaintiff rear-ended a
vehicle driven by Donna Mae Sires. Plaintiff hit Ms. Sires
when she was stopped at a red light at the intersection of
Sunset Boulevard and Dixie Downs Road in St. George,
Sires and Plaintiff got out of their vehicles, and Plaintiff
approached her, swaying as he walked as if he were
police reached the scene of the accident shortly thereafter.
Upon arrival, Officer Christian and Officer Thompson observed
that Plaintiff and his vehicle matched the description of a
male who witnesses reported was driving intoxicated and
recklessly and who was involved in a hit-and-run earlier that
Plaintiff rear-ended Ms. Sires, he was driving a white 1994
Chevrolet K1500 pickup truck. Plaintiff is a white male with
white hair, and he was wearing a blue shirt and had
sunglasses on his person.
Moments before the accident, the police dispatcher advised
Officer Thompson that a reckless driver in an older white
Chevrolet truck had been reported on Sunset Boulevard.
Officer Thompson was attempting to locate the suspect vehicle
when dispatch informed him that it had just been involved in
an accident near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and
Dixie Downs Drive.
Approximately 42 minutes before the accident, at 11:06 am,
dispatch advised Officer Christian that a hit-and-run had
been reported at Albertson’s Sav-On Pharmacy on 745 N.
Dixie Drive in St. George, Utah, which was about 0.2 miles
from where Plaintiff rear-ended Ms. Sires (“the
rear-end collision”). Dispatch provided Officer
Christian with the following details:
a. A witness reported that a male had fallen asleep in his
vehicle while he was parked in the pharmacy drive-through.
The male woke up after approximately five minutes, at which
point he accelerated, hit another vehicle, and then drove
away on Sunset Boulevard.
b. The witness described the suspect as a white male with
white hair who was wearing a blue shirt and sunglasses. As
stated above, Plaintiff matched this description
c. The witness described the suspect’s vehicle as a
white Chevrolet pickup truck, which is what Plaintiff was
d. The witness also provided the truck’s license plate
number, which returned as being registered to
Dispatch also informed Officer Thompson of the hit-and-run
after he arrived at the scene of the rear-end collision but
before Officer Christian arrested Plaintiff.
Dispatch also advised Officer Christian and Officer Thompson
that it received a complaint earlier in the day of a male
matching Plaintiff’s description who was acting
intoxicated at a Harmons grocery store in Ivins, Utah. The
male left in a white Chevrolet pickup truck with a license
plate registered to Plaintiff.
Officer Watson, Officer Thompson, and Officer Christian
arrived at the scene of the rear-end collision between
Plaintiff and Ms. Sires, in that order.
When Officer Thompson arrived, he made contact with
Plaintiff, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of his
truck. Plaintiff appeared very lethargic and his speech was
slow and interrupted by long pauses. When Officer Thompson
asked him for his driver’s license, registration, and
proof of insurance, Plaintiff laid his head back and closed
his eyes as if he were resting. Officer Thompson asked him
again for his documents, and Plaintiff retrieved them.
Officer Thompson then noticed that the bottom of a brown
glass bottle was sticking out from under the seat, which he
believed to be a beer bottle.
Plaintiff exited his vehicle and handed Officer Thompson
several papers along with his driver’s license.
Plaintiff appeared to have a difficult time keeping his
balance as he stood in the roadway, and he repeatedly swayed
back and forth and closed his eyes.
Officer Christian asked Plaintiff if he was injured during
the accident, and Plaintiff replied that he was not.
Plaintiff also had no obvious signs of injury.
Officer Thompson and Officer Christian escorted Plaintiff to
the sidewalk by a gas station because it was hazardous for
them to remain in the road. While he was walking, Plaintiff
was staggering from front to back and almost fell
Officer Christian continued talking to Plaintiff on the
sidewalk, and Plaintiff admitted he rear-ended Ms.
Officer Christian did not detect the odor of alcohol on
Plaintiff’s breath and he was not slurring his words,
but more than once he closed his eyes and began to fall over.
As Plaintiff continued to explain the accident, he rocked
back and forth on his heels, almost falling backwards.
Officer Christian had to steady Plaintiff several times to
prevent him from falling.
Based upon Officer Christian’s observations of
Plaintiff’s behavior, and his training and experience,
he believed that Plaintiff was under the influence of a
narcotic or other drug. Not only was Plaintiff unsteady on
his feet and nearly fell over multiple times, but Plaintiff
and his vehicle matched the description of a hit-and-run and
drunk driving suspect.
Officer Christian informed Plaintiff he was not free to leave
and read him his Miranda Rights. Plaintiff stated that he
understood his rights and agreed to answer Officer
Plaintiff denied consuming alcohol but stated that he takes
Ambien, which Officer Christian knew to be a sedative used to
treat insomnia. Plaintiff denied taking any Ambien that day,
but he advised that he took his normal 600mg dose of
Gabapentin that morning, which he explained is for nerve
Officer Christian then informed Plaintiff that he wanted to
administer field sobriety tests. Officer Christian was and
remains certified to conduct field sobriety tests, including
the horizontal gaze nystagmus (“HGN”) test, the
walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test.
Prior to beginning the first test, Plaintiff was rocking back
and forth like he was off balance, and he closed his
first test that Officer Christian administered was the HGN
test. He explained the test to Plaintiff and asked him if he
had any head injuries, vision problems, or medical problems.
Plaintiff replied that he did not, except that he had surgery
on a disc in his back over a year ago.
HGN test revealed signs indicative of intoxication. There are
six “clues” for HGN, three for each eye: Lack of
smooth tracking, sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation,
and nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.50 Both of
Plaintiff’s eyes jumped and skipped while following
Officer Christian’s finger, and both eyes showed each
type of horizontal nystagmus. Accordingly, Plaintiff
exhibited all six signs of HGN.
Officer Christian repeated each component of the test with
the same results.
After the test was finished, Plaintiff swayed forward and
back approximately a foot to the front and a foot to the
back. Officer Christian and Officer Watson had to steady him
to prevent him from falling.
Officer Christian then escorted Plaintiff to a painted line
outside of the gas station to do the walk-and-turn test. The
line was straight, and the ground was hard, flat, and
Plaintiff swayed back and forth while leaning back slightly
as he was walking over to the line, and Officer Christian had
to hang on to his shoulders to guide him to the
Plaintiff had difficulty following Officer Christian’s
instructions for the test. Plaintiff started the test without
being asked to, despite explicit directions to the contrary,
and Plaintiff could not get into the “starting
position” as instructed. He lost his balance while
attempting to do so, swaying left and right and throwing his
arms up to regain his balance. Officer Christian gave him
another opportunity to get into the starting position, but
Plaintiff was unable to and needed to be steadied by Officer
Christian to prevent him from falling. Officer Christian then
stopped the test because he felt it was unsafe for Plaintiff
Based upon Officer Christian’s training and experience,
Plaintiff’s inability to follow instructions and his
lack of coordination were signs of
third test that Officer Christian administered was the
one-leg stand test. While Officer Christian was demonstrating
the test, Plaintiff raised his leg and started attempting the
test despite explicit instructions to not start until the
demonstration was over. Plaintiff then lost his balance and
had to put his foot down. Officer Christian asked Plaintiff
to return to the starting position, and Plaintiff complied
but almost fell backwards. Officer Christian then
discontinued the test for Plaintiff’s
Based on Officer Christian’s training and experience,
Plaintiff’s inability to follow his instructions and
his loss of balance – particularly when he had both
feet on the ground while in the starting position, were
indications of intoxication.
Officer Christian asked Plaintiff to blow into a Portable
Breath Test, which indicated his blood alcohol concentration
Although Plaintiff’s BAC was .000, Officer Christian
believed he was under the influence of his medication or
another drug because he failed all of the other field
sobriety tests. Officer Christian therefore arrested
Plaintiff and transported him to the Washington County
Plaintiff gave his consent for a blood draw, which occurred
at a hospital. Two certified phlebotomists were unable to
draw any blood, but Plaintiff consented to a urine sample,
which was taken.
April 7, 2016, less than two weeks after Plaintiff was
arrested, the City of St. George filed an information
charging Plaintiff with operating under the influence of
alcohol and or drugs and a traffic infraction.
urine sample was sent to the Utah Department of Health,
Bureau of Forensic Toxicology where it was analyzed for
certain prescription drugs. The analysis was completed on
June 3, 2016 and was negative.
the time the urine sample was analyzed, there was no test
that could detect Gabapentin in blood or urine. Additionally,
the test utilized by the Bureau of Forensic Toxicology would
only return positive for Ambien if levels above a therapeutic
dose were present in the blood or urine sample. In any event,
urine is a less accurate medium than blood when determining
intoxication, and if an individual had recently ingested
medication, it might not show up in their
July 27, 2016, the driving under the influence charge against
Plaintiff was dismissed.
judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” A factual dispute is
genuine when “there is sufficient evidence on each side
so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue
either way.” In determining whether there is a
genuine dispute as to material fact, the court should
“view the factual record and draw all reasonable
inferences therefrom most favorably to the
nonmovant.” The moving party “bears the