Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Dwayne Furlow v. Jon Belmar, No. 21-2640 (8th Cir. 2022)

Dwayne Furlow v. Jon Belmar – Police Warrant – Immunity Fail – 4th, 5th, & 14th Amendment

Officer NOTentitled to qualified immunity Warrant issued by biased police without probable cause, the need for a neutral magistrate to issue a warrant based on actual probable cause.

Opinion Summary

The St. Louis County Police Department (“SLCPD”) in Missouri utilizes what it calls a “Wanteds System.” This system allows officers to issue electronic notices (“Wanteds”) authorizing any other officer to seize a person and take him into custody for questioning without any review by a neutral magistrate before issuance. The Wanteds may pend for days, months, or, in some cases, indefinitely.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to Officers and its dismissal of the municipal liability claim and Count Three. The court reversed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to the Detective. The court explained that the Wanteds System is broad enough to encompass situations that do not violate the Constitution, including those involving an arrest immediately after an officer has entered a wanted. The court wrote that Plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the Wanteds System fails. Further, the court explained that the SLCPD Wanteds System, although fraught with the risk of violating the Constitution in certain circumstances and/or the danger of evidence being suppressed due to an invalid arrest, is not facially unconstitutional. The burden is then on Plaintiffs to show a persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct. The court concluded that the evidence in the record does not show a persistent pattern of unconstitutional arrests so pervasive that it can be said to constitute custom or usage with the force of law. Nor do the proposed classes describe a group of individuals who demonstrate that such a custom or practice exists. The district court did not err in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ municipal liability claim.

Court Description: [Erickson, Author, with Shepherd and Stras, Circuit Judges] Civil case – Civil rights. In this challenge to St. Louis County Missouri’s system allowing police officers to issue electronic “wanted” notices authorizing any other officer to seize a person and take him into custody for questioning without any review by a neutral magistrate before issuance, the district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs, who were arrested on wanteds, appeal. Held: Because circumstances may exist under which the Wanteds System is constitutional, plaintiff’s facial challenge to the system fails; defendant officers Partin and Walsh were entitled to qualified immunity for plaintiff’s arrest because there was doubt that the officers’ actions violated clearly established law; however, with respect to the actions of defendant Clements, even a minimal investigation on her part would have shown that any probable cause for the arrest had vanished, and she was not entitled to qualified immunity; defendant Walsh was entitled to qualified immunity for the arrest of plaintiff Furlow because there was arguable probable cause he had committed a domestic assault; the evidence does not show a persistent pattern of unconstitutional arrests so pervasive that it can be said to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law, and the district court did not err in dismissing the plaintiffs’ municipal liability claim; the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ substantive due process claim where plaintiffs stated a Fourth Amendment claim; on remand, the district court can reconsider whether class certification is appropriate in light of this decision. Judge Shepherd, concurring in part and dissenting in part. Judge Stras, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.