Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Questionable decision by Judge William J. Martinez

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Case: BARNES v. TIMMONS, Civil Action No. 12-cv-01042-WJM-KMT (D. Colorado, March 12, 2013)

What happened: A man, who happened to be a police cadet, reported that a neighbor (that is, the plaintiff) threw a 9 volt battery at his car. Police responded and plaintiff stated that he threw nothing at the cadet’s car, but that he did video the cadet’s driving because plaintiff considered the cadet’s driving to be reckless. Police arrested plaintiff for criminal mischief, a crime that requires damage to property. Plaintiff sued police, pro se (that is, without a lawyer representing him) for false arrest.

Decision: Police had probable cause to arrest plaintiff because the cadet said plaintiff threw a 9 volt battery at his car, and eyewitness testimony can be sufficient to bestow probable cause for arrest. Accordingly, police get qi.

Criticism: First, the opinion does not say that the cadet alleged any damage to the car, or that police found any damage on the car that was caused by the supposed impact of the 9 volt battery. This would seem to indicate a lack of probable cause under the criminal mischief statute, which requires property damage. Second, it appears did not even allege that the 9 volt battery hit the car, but merely alleged that the 9 volt battery was thrown at the car. This suggests even more strongly that there was no damage and/or fails to provide an affirmative reason to believe that there was damage to the cadet’s car. This looks like a bad call by Judge Martinez.

Written by Burgers Allday

March 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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