Court Refuses to Condone Police Thuggery Under “Qualified Immunity”

Posted by Keith G. LangerOct 11, 20210 Comments

This is a far too rare act by a court, which usually let any abuses, including theft and shooting non-threatening dogs, slide under “qualified immunity.”
“Defendant conceded at oral argument that his conduct following the initial stop and check of Plaintiff's driver's license exceeded the bounds of a Terry stop, but that the conduct was still justified because he had probable cause to believe Plaintiff was possessing a firearm without a permit as he had not yet been able to verify the validity of the permit.
After the search had concluded, Defendant returned to the cruiser and began writing on his onboard computer at which point he turned to a fellow officer who had arrived at the scene and asked, “What should I write him up for?” The other officer laughed and then the sergeant who had also since arrived told Defendant what to write. Defendant has not returned Plaintiff's flash drive which contains photos and videos of his deceased father or his money.
An officer has arguable probable cause when “either (a) it was objectively reasonable for the officer to believe that probable cause existed, or (b) officers of reasonable competence could disagree on whether the probable cause test was met.” Amore v. Novarro, 624 F.3d 522, 536 (2d Cir. 2010). “‘Arguable' probable cause should not be misunderstood to mean ‘almost' probable cause.” Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 87 (2d Cir. 2007).
‘The essential inquiry in determining whether qualified immunity is available to an officer accused of false arrest is whether it was objectively reasonable for the officer to conclude that probable cause existed.” Id. “If officers of reasonable competence would have to agree that the information possessed by the officer at the time of arrest did not add up to probable cause, the fact that it came close does not immunize the officer.'”
The court rejected the defendant officer's excuses for his acts, and to deem them protected by the judicial fabrication of “qualified immunity:”
“In light of the uncontested fact that Plaintiff presented his pistol permit to Defendant before or at the time he disclosed that he was in possession of a pistol and the absence of any other indicia that Plaintiff was otherwise violating the statute, no reasonable officer could believe probable cause was present. Any contrary holding “would eviscerate Fourth Amendment protections for lawfully armed individuals” by presuming a license expressly permitting possession of a firearm was invalid.”
Note that a Massachusetts court came to the exact opposite conclusion a few years ago. It is refreshing to see the CT Federal District Court is more enlightened, and respectful of our rights.
The case here is Soukaneh v. Andrzejewski, No. 3:2019cv01147 - Document 26 (D. Conn. 2021)