United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Robin Zak Armstrong and Timothy-Brian Armstrong, proceeding
pro se, filed this unlawful detention action after
they were arrested at a driver's license checkpoint
operated by the Boaz City Police Department. The Plaintiffs
allege that they were unlawfully detained after Boaz City
Police Officers Quentin Scott and Brandon Hester failed to
bring them before a magistrate judge for a probable cause
determination immediately after their arrests. On July 24,
2017, the court (Hopkins, J.) granted in part and denied in
part the Defendants' motion to dismiss the third-amended
complaint. (Doc. 81 at 59-60). As a result of the court's
ruling, the only remaining claims in this action are: (1)
Mrs. Armstrong's unlawful detention claim against Officer
Hester (Count VII) and (2) Mr. Armstrong's unlawful
detention claim against Officer Scott (Count XII).
matter is currently before the court on the Defendants'
motions for summary judgment. (Doc. 148; Doc. 149). The
motions have been fully briefed and the issues are ripe for
review. (Doc. 150; Doc. 157; Doc. 160). For the reasons
explained below, the court WILL GRANT the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court views the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Baas v.
Fewless, 886 F.3d 1088, 1091 (11th Cir. 2018). Although
factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable
to the nonmoving party and pro se complaints are
entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, “a
pro se litigant does not escape the essential burden
under summary judgment standards of establishing that there
is a genuine issue as to a fact material to his case in order
to avert summary judgment.” Brown v. Crawford,
906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990).
court previously set forth the procedural history of this
action in its memorandum opinion and order denying the
Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend their complaint.
(Doc. 168). The court incorporates the procedural history
contained in that opinion and provides the following summary
necessary to address the current motion.
28, 2016, the Boaz Police Department operated a driver's
license checkpoint at the intersection of County Road One and
Double Bridges Road. (Doc. 46 at 34). The purpose of the
checkpoint was to target uninsured motorists and unlicensed
drivers. (Doc. 151-5 at 59). That afternoon, at approximately
3:08 p.m., a white Ford truck entered the checkpoint driven
by Mr. Armstrong. (Doc. 46 at 34; Doc. 151-2 at 6). Mrs.
Armstrong accompanied Mr. Armstrong in the front passenger
checkpoint, Officer Michael Hempel approached Mr.
Armstrong's vehicle and asked for his driver's
license. (Doc. 46 at 34; Doc. 151-5 at 59). In response, Mr.
Armstrong explained that he did not need a driver's
license because “he was a man [acting] in his private
capacity and that he was not using the public roads for any
commercial activity.” (Doc. 46 at 11, 34). Officer
Hempel activated his body cam and proceeded to ask Mr.
Armstrong for other identifying information including his
name, social security number, and date of birth.
(Id. at 34). Mr. Armstrong provided only his first
and last name. (Id.).
Hempel went to his patrol car to run this information, but
was unable to determine whether Mr. Armstrong held a valid
driver's license. (Id.). Officer Hempel then
returned to Mr. Armstrong's vehicle accompanied by
Officer Quentin Scott and advised Mr. Armstrong that he was
required to have a driver's license while operating a
motor vehicle on the public roadways. (Doc. 46 at 15, 34). At
this point, Mrs. Armstrong began to record the officers with
a video camera and stated “that sounds like a
threat.” (Id. at 34).
Hempel told Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong that he was “not
there to play games” and ordered Mr. Armstrong to exit
the vehicle. (Id.). Mr. Armstrong refused to follow
Officer Hempel's orders and asked permission to reach for
his wallet. (Id.). Out of concern for his safety,
Officer Hempel explained that he “would rather [Mr.
Armstrong] not reach for anything” and asked him to
exit the vehicle a second time. (Doc. 46 at 34). Mr.
Armstrong again refused to vacate the vehicle, telling
Officer Hempel to “hold on a second.”
(Id.). Officer Hempel opened the driver's side
door, unfastened Mr. Armstrong's seatbelt, and removed
him from the vehicle. (Id.). Once Mr. Armstrong was
outside of the vehicle, Officer Hempel placed him under
arrest for obstructing a government operation.
(Id.). Officer Scott escorted Mr. Armstrong to the
backseat of his police cruiser. (Doc. 46 at 34-35).
Mr. Armstrong was taken into custody, Officer Hempel directed
his attention to Mrs. Armstrong. (Id. at 35).
Officer Hempel explained that Mrs. Armstrong could leave with
the vehicle if she presented a valid driver's license.
(Id.). Mrs. Armstrong refused to provide Officer
Hempel with her license and continued to film the officers
with her video camera. (Id.). Without another driver
available to remove the vehicle, Officer Hempel called for a
tow truck and told Mrs. Armstrong that the vehicle would be
impounded. (Doc. 46 at 35). When Officer Hempel opened the
driver's side door to retrieve the keys, Mrs. Armstrong
pushed his hand away from the ignition and claimed “it
was her private property.” (Id.). Officer
Hempel directed Mrs. Armstrong to step out of the vehicle and
placed her under arrest for obstructing a government
Scott drove the Armstrongs to the Boaz City Jail. (Doc. 151-6
at 11). On the way, Mr. Armstrong asked Officer Scott to
bring him directly before a magistrate judge for a probable
cause hearing. (Doc. 46 at 16; Doc. 151-8 at 10, 26). Officer
Scott informed Mr. Armstrong that the magistrate's office
was closed for the holiday weekend and estimated it could
take seventy-two hours to fulfill his request. (Doc. 151-5 at
36-37; Doc. 151-8 at 10, 26; Doc. 46 at 31).
the Armstrongs arrived at the jail, they were directed to
Officer Brandon Hester for booking. (Doc. 151-5 at 22).
Officer Hester began the administrative booking and intake
procedures with Mrs. Armstrong at 4:28 p.m. (Doc. 151-2 at
15). Mrs. Armstrong requested that Officer Hester take her
before a magistrate judge, but was also told it could take up
to seventy-two hours to go before the magistrate judge
because of the holiday weekend. (Doc. 46 at 13, 24- 25).
Unsatisfied with this response, Mrs. Armstrong refused to
cooperate in the booking process. (Id. at 13, 35;
Doc. 151-1 at 3). As a result, Officer Hester placed Mrs.
Armstrong in a holding cell and informed her that she would
not be released from custody until she “answered [his]