Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Bad police trifecta: unwarranted arrest, false dog alert and strip search

leave a comment »

Case: CIANFAGLIONE v. ROGERS (C.D.Ill. 5-11-2012)


On May 19, 2008, Plaintiff, Angelina Cianfaglione . . . received a citation for driving on a suspended license. After pleading not guilty to driving on a suspended license and demanding a jury trial, Plaintiff failed to appear for a scheduled court appearance at the Edgar County Courthouse on August 14, 2008. Judge David Lewis ordered a warrant to issue for Plaintiff’s arrest and set bond at $4,000. In the days between August 14, 2008 and August 20, 2008, Plaintiff alleges that: (1) she contacted the Sheriff of Edgar County and was told that a warrant would be issued for her arrest in a few days and that the bond would be $400 and that once issued, she could turn herself in at the jail; (2) she repeatedly checked the “Judici” website to see if her warrant had been issued and it had not; and (3) she contacted the Circuit Clerk’s office on August 20, 2008 about the warrant and was told it was not yet issued.

. . .

On August 20, 2008, Defendants Rogers and Burgin, who were deputies of the Sheriff of Edgar County, Illinois, were in a marked police vehicle in a close proximity to Plaintiff’s home. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Plaintiff, with her young son in the backseat of her vehicle, left her home to drive to a restaurant in Paris, Illinois. Defendant Rogers, at some point prior to August 20, 2008, became aware that there was a warrant ordered issued for Plaintiff’s arrest relating to a missed court appearance. At the time Plaintiff started driving away from her home on August 20, 2008, Defendant Rogers called Assistant State’s Attorney Allen A. Bell Jr. (“ASA Bell”), to ask him whether a warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest was still in effect. ASA Bell provided an affidavit stating that on August 20, 2008, he informed Defendant Rogers “that a valid warrant for the arrest of [Plaintiff] was in existence and that he could seek to arrest her in connection with said warrant.” After receiving this information from ASA Bell, Defendants Rogers and Burgin pulled Plaintiffs vehicle over near the restaurant she was traveling to.

Plaintiff alleges that after she came to a stop, Defendants Rogers and Burgin walked up to her vehicle and asked her “have you been doing methamphetamine today” and “how much methamphetamine have you smoked today.” Plaintiff immediately denied using or possessing any methamphetamine. . . . During this five minute [interval], Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Rogers searched her purse and cell phone without her explicit consent. . . .

Plaintiff was now standing outside of her vehicle. At this time, Plaintiff’s pockets were checked for contraband and her car doors and trunk were opened. Next, the narcotic detector canine—AJ, who was handled by Defendant Burgin—was brought out and walked around Plaintiff’s vehicle. Defendants Burgin and Rogers allege that AJ made a signal, which was sitting down, for contraband. After AJ allegedly made an alert on Plaintiff’s vehicle, Defendants Burgin and Rogers searched Plaintiff’s vehicle, but did not discover any narcotics or contraband. After the unsuccessful search of Plaintiff’s vehicle, they placed her under arrest pursuant to the warrant they were informed existed for her arrest by ASA Bell. They placed her in handcuffs and transported her to the Edgar County Jail. . . .

Upon arrival at the Edgar County Jail, Defendants Rogers and Burgin ordered that Plaintiff be strip searched. The sole basis for ordering this strip search was the suspicion that Plaintiff had illegal contraband on her person, a suspicion which was based solely on the narcotic detector canine alert made by AJ when walking around Plaintiff’s vehicle. Defendants have not offered any other facts supporting this suspicion, such as a previous criminal history of illegal drug use or possession or any information that would have led them to believe that she was carrying illegal drugs on August 20, 2008. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Wilson, who was a deputy of the Sheriff of Edgar County and was working in the Edgar County Jail on the night in question, told Defendants Rogers and Burgin that they “shouldn’t be doing this … because that’s not even signed yet.”

Pursuant to Defendants Rogers and Burgin’s orders, Defendant Weger, a female part-time employee of the Office of the Sheriff of Edgar County, conducted a strip search of the Plaintiff. According to the Defendants’ version of events, Plaintiff was subjected to an ordinary visual strip search. According to Plaintiff’s version of events, she was subjected to a much more invasive type of search. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she was ordered to strip off all of her clothes and bend over and touch her toes. After complying with this order, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Weger conducted a body cavity search with the assistance of a flashlight and rubber gloves. Plaintiff alleges, that in the process of completing a body cavity search, Defendant Weger touched her “vagina to spread her apart and touched [her] buttocks with her hands and spread the cheeks apart.” No illegal drugs were found during the search of Plaintiff’s person. Plaintiff was then allowed to put her clothes back on and was allowed to pay $400 bond to Defendant Wilson who signed the Bail Bond Receipt and allowed Plaintiff to leave the Edgar County Jail.

The bench warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest was issued and signed by Judge David Lewis on August 21, 2008. The warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest was received by the Edgar County Sheriff, Timothy Cripes, on August 21, 2008, and was signed as executed by Defendant Wilson on August 21, 2008.

(footnotes omitted)

Decision: QI for the claim of arrest with no warrant(!). QI on the false dog alert(!). Court does allow the plaintiff to maintain her strip search claim.

Comment: Wow. Just wow.

Written by Burgers Allday

May 15, 2012 at 4:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: