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Brooks v. Pitchford

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

June 1, 2015

LINDSAY ANN BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRETT A. PITCHFORD, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

GREG N. STIVERS, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Fully briefed, the matter is ripe for adjudication. Under the standards of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court finds Plaintiff has failed to state a claim. For the reasons outlined below, the motion to dismiss (DN 8) is GRANTED.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

Plaintiff was cited for the underage possession of alcohol on September 8, 2013. She claims the events leading up to this citation amount to excessive force in violation of her constitutional rights. She brings a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The following facts are taken as true for the purposes of this motion and are summarized from the Second Amended Complaint. (2nd Am. Compl., DN 17). On September 8, 2013, Plaintiff Lindsay Ann Brooks ("Brooks")-an eighteen-year-old-and a group of friends were stopped by Officer Brett A. Pitchford ("Pitchford") of the Kentucky Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control in a fast-food restaurant parking lot on the suspicion of carrying alcoholic drinks. After she appeared to be unresponsive to the officer's questions, Brooks was handcuffed and seated on the asphalt parking lot. Background noise and a long-standing hearing deficit made her unable to hear Pitchford's questions. Brooks alleges Pitchford verbally ridiculed her hearing condition and contends his actions constitute excessive force.

II. JURISDICTION

The Court has federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

III. STANDARD

"The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to allow a defendant to test whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief even if everything alleged in the complaint is true." Mayer v. Mylod, 988 F.2d 635, 638 (6th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Accordingly, a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim should only be granted where plaintiffs could "allege no set of facts which entitle them to legal relief." Id.

IV. DISCUSSION

The Fourth Amendment provides that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons against unreasonable seizures shall not be violated." U.S. Const. amend. IV. Seizures occur when "a reasonable person would not feel free to leave an encounter with police." Bennett v. City of Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 834 (6th Cir. 2005). Seizures are a regular part of police work. "[T]he Constitution forbids... not all searches and seizures, but unreasonable searches and seizures." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 9 (1968). The Fourth Amendment's protections have been incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment to apply to the States. Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25 (1949).[1]

"[C]laims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force... in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other seizure' of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its reasonableness' standard...." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). "[T]he seizure that occurs when a person is arrested continues throughout the time the person remains in the custody of the arresting officers." McDowell v. Rogers, 863 F.2d 1302, 1306 (6th Cir.1988) (citation omitted). While the police are necessarily authorized to use some amount of force in the course of an arrest, excessive force violates the reasonableness standard. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. In excessive force claims, courts must decide whether an "officer's actions, in light of the totality of the circumstances, were objectively reasonable." Kostrzewa v. City of Troy, 247 F.3d 633, 639 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Graham, 490 U.S. at 396-97).

Actions taken by Pitchford, as the arresting officer, are governed under Fourth Amendment law. Brooks contends the force used-handcuffs and verbal ridiculing-was excessive under the circumstances. She notes her (i) consent to restricted liberty; (ii) truthful answers to questions about the beverages carried; (iii) lack of any attempt to flee; (iv) lack of violent behavior towards police; (v) "respectful courtesy"; and (vi) submission to breathalyzer tests. (2nd Am. Compl. ¶ 8). Brooks argues that Pitchford did not subjectively perceive her or her companions to be a threat. (2nd Am. Compl. ¶ 9).

"[W]hen there is no allegation of physical injury, the handcuffing of an individual incident to a lawful arrest is insufficient as a matter of law to state a claim of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment." Neague v. Cynkar, 258 F.3d 504, 508 (6th Cir. 2001). Nonetheless, "[t]he Fourth Amendment prohibits unduly tight or excessively forceful handcuffing during the course of a seizure." Morrison v. Bd. of Trs. of Green Twp., 583 F.3d 394, 401 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Under the totality of the circumstances standard, "the law does require that the force used be more than the mere technical battery that is inextricably a part of any arrest...." Roberts v. Louisville/Jefferson Cnty. Metro Gov't, No. 06-133-C, 2007 WL 2025211, at *6 (W.D. Ky. July 9, 2007) (citations omitted). Some courts have ...


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