CLOSE X
RSS Feed LinkedIn Instagram Twitter Facebook
Search:
FMG Law Blog Line

Posts Tagged ‘#arrest’

Fourteen Seconds Plus Emergency Lights Equals Probable Cause To Arrest

Posted on: June 11th, 2018

By: Charles Reed

There is a saying that “nothing good ever happens after midnight.” Both City of Hollywood, Florida police officer Ronald Cannella and citizen Livingston Manners would become very familiar with this saying after the events of June 24, 2014. On that day, close to three in the morning, Officer Cannella patrolled a residential area of the city due to a series of recent thefts. Manners, a Hollywood resident, was sitting in his car on the side of the road before heading to work and, shortly after Cannella passed by him on patrol, Manners pulled out and made a turn. What happened after that is largely in dispute, but what is undisputed is that Cannella approached Manners’ vehicle with emergency equipment activated. Manners saw Cannella behind him with lights and siren activated and, instead of stopping his car, Manners drove another fourteen seconds – approximately one tenth of a mile – at a slow speed to reach a well-lit gas station where video surveillance was available. Manners testified that he did not immediately stop his vehicle because it was late at night in a very dark area and, as a large African-American male, he was in fear for his life. However, Manners’ actions captured by videotape thereafter appeared to contradict his purported fear as he argued with Cannella and actively grappled with Cannella as Cannella attempted to arrest him. It took five officers and two taser deployments over a period of three minutes to get Manners in handcuffs.

After Manners was acquitted of the criminal charges stemming from the incident, he sued Cannella and others. On the issue of probable cause, the Eleventh Circuit held in Manners v. Cannella, 2018 U.S. App. Lexis 15007 (June 4, 2018) that Cannella had probable cause to arrest Manners for fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer by driving “for three blocks, or one-tenth of a mile, or for 14.4 seconds after seeing Officer Cannella was behind him with the patrol car’s lights and sirens on.” Id. at *19. This probable cause was present even though Manners rolled down his windows and drove a slower rate of speed (25 miles per hour) before pulling over to the gas station. The Court analogized Manners’ conduct with previous Florida cases involving a ten mile-per-hour drive for five minutes and a one to two-mile drive after lights and sirens were present. Id. at 21-22. The Court shrugged off Manners’ concerns for his safety by filtering his flight through the doctrine of necessity under state law and further held “a generalized fear of police does not provide a legal basis to vitiate probable cause for the offense of flight.” Id. at 23-24.

The Eleventh Circuit’s analysis of this issue reflects the tension between the law and instructions sometimes provided to the general public when approached by law enforcement late at night. In some instances, especially where the citizen is approached by a person impersonating an officer, news reports will quote senior command staff recommending that citizens call 9-1-1 or travel to well-lit areas late at night if they are uncomfortable with emergency lights behind them.[1] On the other hand, should citizens follow these instructions, they risk arrest and prosecution for flight even if – as in this case – the duration of the travel is a tenth of a mile. For now, at least in the Eleventh Circuit, it appears that law enforcement officers may be justified in effecting an arrest in such situations and may not face civil liability for the exercise of their arrest powers.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Charles Reed at [email protected].

[1] A snapshot of various news articles around the country concerning late night stops between citizens and law enforcement: Chicago Tribune, News4JAX, and South Miami.

11th Circuit: Exclusionary Rule is Inapplicable to Malicious Prosecution Claims

Posted on: March 8th, 2016

By: Kevin Stone and Andy Treese

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently published an opinion in which it held that the exclusionary rule cannot be used against police officers in a civil suit.

In Black v. Wigington, 15-10848, 2016 WL 278918 (11th Cir. Jan. 22, 2016), the plaintiffs sued several sheriff’s deputies for malicious prosecution.  Because an officer cannot be liable for malicious prosecution if the arrest is supported by probable cause, the key inquiry was whether probable cause supported the plaintiffs’ arrests.  The officers argued that evidence found during their search of the plaintiffs’ home provided probable cause, while the plaintiffs argued that the evidence could not provide probable cause because the search was illegal. 

During the plaintiffs’ criminal trial, the superior court determined that the search was unlawful.  As a result, the superior court applied the exclusionary rule, suppressing all evidence associated with the search, resulting in a dismissal of the criminal charges.  The Eleventh Circuit held, however, that the exclusionary rule does not apply in a civil suit against police officers.  As a result, the court considered the evidence found during the unlawful search and concluded that probable cause existed for the prosecution of plaintiffs.  For that reason, the malicious prosecution claim failed.  The court, however, made clear that plaintiffs may still sue officers for an illegal search. 

As the court observed, the exclusionary rule is not a “personal constitutional right” or a requirement of the Fourth Amendment; it is a “judicially created remedy” which applies in the criminal context, only.  The court reasoned that the cost of applying the exclusionary rule in civil suits against officers is significant because officers could be forced to pay damages based on “an overly truncated version of the evidence.”  Although the exclusionary rule prevents illegally gathered evidence from being used in a criminal trial, it does not apply in a civil suit alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution.