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Baker v. Paolucci

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division

June 2, 2017



          William O. Bertelsman United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action, in which Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 to redress alleged violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. The matter now comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 39). Having reviewed the matter, and being sufficiently advised, the Court now issues this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. Facts

         Robert Baker is an approximately 37-year-old schizophrenic man. On May 1, 2013, Baker spent the day walking approximately nine miles from his home to his girlfriend's workplace. (See Doc. 41, PageID# 210). Baker's girlfriend then drove him home, where he ate dinner, watched television, and took two antipsychotic pills. At approximately 11:30 p.m., Baker drove to a Kroger grocery store. (Doc. 41, PageID# 213). An hour-and-a-half later, Baker left Kroger with a bag of groceries that included milk and cookies. (See Doc. 41, PageID# 210; Doc. 42, PageID# 243). He ate the cookies as he drove toward his home. (Doc. 41, PageID# 215).

         Two Lakeside Park/Crestview Hills police officers, Officer Brett Mullins and Sgt. Michael Paolucci, noticed Baker's Dodge Durango “weaving in its lane.” (Doc. 43, PageID# 272). Baker acknowledges that he “might have” been weaving, but claims “it was just for a brief second, like barely a blink of a[n] eye probably.” (Doc. 41, PageID# 214-15). After the officers pulled over Baker's vehicle, Baker gave Mullins a Xerox copy of his driver's license. (Doc. 42, PageID# 246). With Baker still in the driver's seat, Mullins tried to give Baker three tests for driving under the influence. Mullins testified Baker refused to recite the alphabet, refused a finger test, and made multiple mistakes when counting backward from a designated number. (Doc. 42, PageID# 250). Baker does not remember whether he took the alphabet or finger test, but is “pretty sure” he accurately counted backward from the designated number-though he admits he was “kind of nervous.” (Doc. 41, PageID# 216-17).

         According to the officers, Baker then got out of his vehicle and walked slightly into an active traffic lane. (Doc. 42, PageID# 251). Baker then remembers having trouble with a walk-and-turn test and “probably fail[ing]” a one-leg stand test. (Doc. 41, PageID# 218-20). The officers testify that Baker showed signs of impairment on both a horizontal gaze nystagmus test and walk-and-turn test, leading Mullins to arrest Baker for driving under the influence and careless driving in light of the total circumstances. (Doc. 42, PageID# 253-57). It was only the second driving under the influence arrest Mullins had made in his career. (Doc. 42, PageID# 246).

         The officers drove Baker to a nearby hospital. (Doc. 43, PageID# 278). Baker thought he was merely going there to receive psychiatric care. (Doc. 41, PageID# 220). After being denied the use of the phone, Baker consented to blood and urine tests. (Doc. 41, PageID# 221-22). While the nurse was taking Baker's blood sample, Mullins and Paolucci noticed marks on Baker's arm consistent with intravenous drug use. (Doc. 42, PageID# 260; Doc. 43, PageID# 279). Finally, the officers took Baker to the Kenton County Detention Center, where Baker blew a 0.00 on the Intoxilyzer 5000. (Doc. 42, PageID# 248).

         The lab results on Baker's blood and urine showed that Baker was not under the influence of 34 drugs the lab tested for. (Doc. 39-8). After expressing her concerns about the lack of evidence in the case, Kenton County District Judge Ann Ruttle dismissed the charges against Baker, and the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals affirmed on appeal.

         Exactly one year after the arrest, Baker filed this § 1983 claim. As his damages, Baker reports “seeing things” over the past few years and having nightmares about police officers. (Doc. 41, PageID# 228). This Court stayed the action pending final resolution of the state court case (Doc. 10), and now Defendants have moved for summary judgment.

         II. Analysis

         Baker claims Mullins and Paolucci committed Constitutional violations throughout the events of this case. First, he claims the officers violated the Fourth Amendment both in pulling over his vehicle and in arresting him. Second, he claims the officers used excessive force while arresting him. And third he alleges the officers participated in a malicious prosecution against him in the subsequent months. He also brings state law claims for outrage, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.

         The Court concludes that the record shows no Constitutional or statutory violations by Defendants. But even if there were, Mullins and Paolucci would be entitled to qualified immunity.

         A. The officers' initial decision to pull Baker over. 1. Officers had reasonable suspicion for traffic stop.

         Baker first claims the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by pulling him over without reasonable suspicion of a crime. The Terry v. Ohio reasonable suspicion standard applies to traffic stops. Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 530, 536 (2014); Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 327 (2009); United States v. Bost, 606 Fed. App'x. 821, 823 (6th Cir. 2015)(citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)).

         Under Kentucky law the officers were enforcing at the time, “a car weaving in its own lane is sufficient evidence on its own to create a reasonable suspicion.” Baker v. Commonwealth, 475 S.W.3d 633, 635 (Ky. App. 2015); see also Gaddis ex rel. Gaddis v. Redford Tp., 364 F.3d 763, 771 (6th Cir. 2004)(applying Michigan law and finding reasonable suspicion when motorist weaved twice to touch the center lane). The Supreme Court of Kentucky has also found that ...

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