United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, United States District Judge
magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on July
10, 2017, 2017, recommending that this action be dismissed
without prejudice for failing to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
(Doc. 6). The plaintiff was notified of his right to file
objections within fourteen (14) days of the report and
recommendation (id.), and on July 20, 2017, the
court received the plaintiff's objections (doc. 7) and a
“Supplemental Pleading” (doc. 8).
complaint, construed liberally, the plaintiff asserted he is
illegally detained because he did not receive a probable
cause hearing after his arrest. In response to the report and
recommendation of the magistrate judge, the plaintiff now
asserts, by way of objections, that defendant Stephen
Ledbetter violated his Fourth Amendment right against
unreasonable seizure and failed to comply with the due
process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 7 at 1).
The plaintiff argues that a form complaint and arrest
warrant, unaccompanied by a separate affidavit, fail to meet
the requirements of the Fourth Amendment and fail to
establish probable cause. (Id.).
aside the fact that the plaintiff did not raise the
constitutionality of a “form complaint and arrest
warrant, unaccompanied by a separate affidavit” in his
complaint, nothing in this objection has merit. Under Alabama
law, even if “the writ of arrest was wrongly issued it
does not follow that the arrest was
invalid.” Rennow v. State, 255 So.2d 602,
603 (Ala.Crim.App. 1971). Moreover, an arrest not in
compliance with Alabama statutes is not a per se violation of
the federal Constitution. See Knight v. Jacobson,
300 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2002) (stating that
“[s]ection 1983 does not create a remedy for every
wrong committed under the color of state law, but only for
those that deprive a plaintiff of a federal right ....”
and further noting that “there is no federal right not
to be arrested in violation of state law.”) (citations
omitted);Wilcox v. Ford, 813 F.2d 1140, 1145 n. 7
(11th Cir. 1987) (a federal court is not concerned with
violations of state law unless the violation raises federal
importantly, the complaint and warrant for the
plaintiff's arrest were within the bounds of the Fourth
Amendment, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth
Amendment due process clause. The facts set forth in the
complaint were sworn to by defendant Ledbetter, which
provided a reasonable basis for the warrant to issue. See
Harris v. Falls, 920 F.Supp.2d 1247, 1260 (N.D.Ala.
2013). Nothing under the Constitution or Alabama law requires
an affidavit in support of a warrant be set forth on a wholly
separate sheet of paper, as the plaintiff seems to argue.
Additionally, the Constitution also allows an arrest without
a warrant where law enforcement officers have probable cause
to believe that an individual has engaged in a felony.
Probable cause exists where the facts and totality of the
circumstances, as collectively known to the law enforcement
officers and based on reasonably trustworthy information, are
“sufficient to cause a person of reasonabl[e] caution
to believe an offense has been or is being committed.”
Parker v. Allen, 565 F.3d 1258, 1289 (11th Cir.
2009) (citations omitted). See also United States v.
Floyd, 281 F.3d 1346, 1348 (11th Cir. 2002).
even if the arrest warrant was fatally deficient, this does
not equate to an arrest without probable cause. Additionally,
even if an officer lacked actual probable cause to make an
arrest, he is nevertheless entitled to qualified immunity if
there was arguable probable cause for the arrest. Jones
v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1283 (11th Cir. 1999).
Arguable probable cause exists if a reasonable police
officer, knowing what the defendant knew, could have believed
that there was probable cause for the arrest. Lee v.
Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1195 (11th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Scarbrough v. Myles, 245 F.3d 1299, 1302
(11th Cir. 2001)). In determining whether arguable probable
cause existed at the time of the arrest, the courts look at
the totality of the circumstances. Davis v.
Williams, 451 F.3d 759 (11th Cir. 2006).
the plaintiff intended to raise a claim of malicious
prosecution on the grounds that he was arrested and detained
based on a warrant that was unsupported by probable cause
and/or a claim that he was falsely arrested or imprisoned
without a warrant, both claims fail. The plaintiff's
conclusory assertions that the arrest warrant was
unconstitutional and not supported by probable cause are
insufficient to bring into question the validity of the
arrest warrant. Although courts are required to construe
pro se complaints liberally, the complaint must nevertheless
allege facts from which the inference of a constitutional
violation is plausible, not merely speculative. Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557
(2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009);
Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th
Cir. 2010). Moreover, a claim of malicious prosecution does
not accrue until the criminal proceedings have been favorably
terminated in the plaintiff's favor, which has not
occurred here. See Wood v. Kessler, 323 F.3d 872,
882 (11th Cir. 2003) (noting probable cause bars a malicious
state court records reflect that the Court Clerk signed a
Complaint based on the statement under oath of Stephen
Ledbetter that he had probable cause to believe that on or
about March 21, 2017, the plaintiff possessed methamphetamine
near Home Depot, in Sylacauga, Alabama. State of Alabama
v. Dionne Carlos McKinney, DC 2017-100181.00 (Talladega
County, Ala.). See e.g., Sada v. City of
Altamonte Springs, 434 Fed.App'x 845, 849 (11th Cir.
2001) (holding that various witnesses' statements were
sufficient to establish probable cause). As previously
stated, the constitution requires no more than this for
Fourth Amendment purposes. Under Alabama law too, this is
sufficient. See e.g., Hunt v. State, 659 So.2d 933,
947-48 (Ala.Crim.App. 1994) (finding substantially similar
complaint adequate to establish probable cause).
evidence at the defendants' disposal at time the
complaint and arrest warrant issued was more than sufficient
to establish arguable probable cause. The plaintiff's
general assertions that probable cause was not established,
with no specific factual support, do not require a finding
otherwise. See e.g., Dalrymple v. Reno, 334
F.3d 991, 996 (11th Cir. 2003) (something more than mere
conclusory notice pleading is required in civil rights
complaints, especially where the defense of qualified
immunity is involved). Even if the charges are eventually
dropped, or there is an acquittal, is of no consequence in
determining the validity of the arrest itself. Marx v.
Gumbinner, 905 F.2d 1503, 1507 (11th Cir. 1990). See
also Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 641(1987)
(“it is inevitable that law enforcement officials will
in some cases reasonably but mistakenly conclude that
probable cause is present, and we have indicated that in such
cases those officials ... should not be held personally
plaintiff asserts that defendant Ledbetter knew or should
have know that a form complaint and arrest warrant failed to
establish probable cause and therefore should not have
applied for the arrest warrant. (Doc. 7 at 1). To the extent
that this can be construed as an objection to the sufficiency
of the evidence underlying the complaint and arrest warrant,
such a challenge properly falls within the realm of habeas
corpus, assuming the same is properly raised during trial.
See McDowell Bey v. Vega, 588 Fed. App'x 923,
926 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Wilkinson v. Dotson,
544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005)). As previously stated, a witness
statement can be sufficient to establish probable cause. An
affidavit need not reflect the direct personal observations
of the affiant and may be based on hearsay. See Illinois
v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 241-242 (1983); United
States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 1108 (1965).
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Supreme
Court clarified the interplay between habeas and civil-rights
claims. The Court ruled that a § 1983 claim for damages
does not accrue “for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by
actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, ” until the plaintiff proves that the
“conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct
appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a
state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 486-87
(footnote omitted). Heck has been extended to claims
for declaratory and injunctive relief. See Edwards v.
Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997) (Heck bars a
§ 1983 action seeking damages and declaratory relief
which challenges a prison disciplinary hearing forfeiting
not all § 1983 actions for Fourth Amendment search and
seizure violations imply the invalidity of a conviction such
that Heck would bar those claims, Hughes v.
Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003), here the
plaintiff's allegations necessarily challenge the
validity of the charges. The plaintiff may not use §
1983 as a means to test the evidence against him prior to his
state court criminal trial. See e.g., Abella v.
Rubino, 63 F.3d 1063, 1064-65 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding
that the plaintiff's argument that the defendants
“knowingly and willfully conspired to convict him
falsely by fabricating testimony and other evidence against
him” was barred under Heck because
“[j]udgment in favor of Abella on these claims [that
the defendants unconstitutionally conspired to convict him of
crimes he did not commit] would necessarily imply the
invalidity of his conviction.”); see also Vickers
v. Donahue, 137 Fed.App'x 285, 290 (11th Cir. 2005)
(claims alleging malicious and false arrest would necessarily
invalidate a conviction that had not been reversed or
declared invalid and therefore were barred under
plaintiff next objects that his due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment were abridged by defendant Ledbetter
obtaining a warrant for his arrest that was not supported by
probable cause. (Doc. 7 at 1-2). This argument fares no
better than the plaintiff's argument under the Fourth
Amendment, and in fact is indistinguishable from it. Again,
until the plaintiff exhausts his state court remedies,
including raising these issues at trial and on appeal,
Heck bars his § 1983 claim here.
Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 81-82 (“§1983 suit
is barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter the relief
sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of
the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction
or internal prison proceeding)-if success in that
action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of
confinement or its duration.”) (emphasis in original).
plaintiff's further objections are no more than
restatements of his first two. He asserts that defendant
Judge Fannin issued a facially invalid warrant because it was
a form complaint without a separate affidavit. (Doc. 7 at 2). To
the extent that the plaintiff is attempting to assert that
Judge Fannin acted in absence of jurisdiction, his argument
is misplaced. Issuing arrest warrants is a function normally
performed by a judge and is clearly within the jurisdictional
authority of a state court judge. See e g., Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978) (holding that judge
is entitled to absolute judicial immunity for all actions
taken within the exercise of his jurisdiction); Simmons
v. Conger, 86 F.3d 1080, 1085 (11th Cir. 1996) (same). A
judge is entitled to this immunity even though the act he
undertook “was in error, was done maliciously, or was
in excess of his authority.” Stump, 435 U.S.
at 356. Defendant Fannin is a judge of the District Court of
Talladega County, Alabama. The plaintiff's interactions
with Judge Fannin, ...