United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Christopher L. Ray United States Magistrate Judge
pro se and in forma pauperis, Michael
Anthony Tutt, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action
against various state officials involved in his arrest and
prosecution. Doc. 1. The Court granted his request to
pursue his case in forma pauperis (IFP), doc. 3, and
he returned the necessary forms. Docs. 5 & 6. The Court
now screens the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A,
which requires the immediate dismissal of any pro se
complaint that fails to state at least one actionable
was cited during a “routine traffic stop” on
February 13, 2018 after Tybee Island police officer Price
suspected he was driving under the influence. Doc. 1 at 5
(alleging he tested negative). He was arrested for driving
with a suspended/revoked license. Id. The next day,
he was taken for his initial appearance/preliminary hearing
before Judge Moss without counsel present. Id. CNT
agent Woodruff testified, however, to support the imposition
of a bond. Id. Apparently, after his arrest
Tutt's vehicle had been searched and methamphetamine and
(perhaps - he denies it was ever in his possession) a gun
were recovered, leading to the tacking on of felony
possession charges during the February 14, 2018 hearing.
Id. at 6.
contends CNT agents Woodruff and Baker filed a false report
that he had drugs and a gun in the car, since a search by
Tybee officers reflected no firearm. Doc. 1 at 7. The gun, he
explains, was actually found in another's car.
Id. at 8 (on February 26, 2018, the gun was
apparently recovered from Rene Dougherty Allred's
vehicle; their relationship, if any, is unclear from the
Complaint). Stacy, his assigned public defender, has
deficiently represented him by encouraging Tutt to accept a
plea agreement. Id. at 8. Tutt seeks damages, the
resignation of “all parties, ” an
“investigation on the District Attorneys office, and
Public Defenders office, ” that “all
evidence” and “secondary evidence be
exclude[d]”, and release from custody. Id. at
waves at claims for false arrest or malicious prosecution. A
claim for false arrest derives from the constitutional right
to be free from “unreasonable searches and
seizures.” U.S. Const. Amend. IV. A warrantless arrest
made without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment and
forms the basis of a § 1983 claim for damages.
Ortega v. Christian, 85 F.3d 1521, 1525 (11th Cir.
1996); Max v. Gumbinner, 905 F.2d 1503, 1505 (11th
Cir. 1990); Von Stein v. Bresher, 904 F.2d. 572, 578
(11th Cir. 1990). The existence of probable cause, however,
is a bar to § 1983 claims based on false arrest and
false imprisonment. Ortega, 85 F.3d at 1525-26. And
Tutt affirmatively pleaded that there was probable cause for
his arrest (he was driving without a valid license). Doc. 1
at 5; see also United States v. Regan, 218 Fed.Appx.
902, 904 (11th Cir. 2007) (“brief, suspicionless
seizures of motorists at a sobriety checkpoint aimed at
removing drunk drivers from the road” are
constitutionally permissible, as are “roadblock[s] to
question all oncoming traffic to verify [ ] drivers'
licenses and vehicle registrations with the interest of
serving highway safety”). He has no claim against
arresting officer Price.
case of continuing detention (as here), “false
imprisonment ends once the victim becomes held pursuant to
[legal] process - when, for example, he is bound over by a
magistrate or arraigned on charges.” Wallace v.
Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389-90 (2009); see State
v.Tutt, CR18-471 & CR18-637 (Chatham Super. Ct.).
Once an arrestee's unlawful detention becomes a product
of legal process, his continued custody may still be
unlawful, but any damages suffered after that point must be
recovered under the “entirely distinct” tort of
malicious prosecution, “which remedies detention
accompanied not by the absence of legal process, but by
wrongful institution of legal process.”
Id. at 390. In other words, the torts of malicious
prosecution and false imprisonment are distinct, and the
former supplants the latter after legal process is initiated.
Eleventh Circuit “has identified malicious prosecution
as a violation of the Fourth Amendment and a viable
constitutional tort cognizable under § 1983.”
Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 881 (11th Cir. 2003).
An essential element of a malicious prosecution claim,
however, is the termination of the criminal prosecution in
the plaintiff's favor. Id. at 882. In the case
at bar, there is no allegation that the Chatham County
criminal cases have been resolved in Tutt's favor.
See doc. 1; see Tutt, CR18-471 &
CR18-637 (Chatham Super. Ct.) (felony possession cases
“open” as of February 26, 2019, with plea hearing
set for May 16, 2019). Accordingly, he does not state a claim
for malicious prosecution and any such claim against any of
the named defendants should be DISMISSED.
Even if he had pled (or could plead) favorable termination,
several of the named defendants are immune from
in passing, argues that the drug and gun evidence must be
suppressed/excluded from consideration in his state
prosecutions because they were procured in violation of his
Fourth Amendment rights. Doc. 1 at 6-8. Any ruling by this
Court as to the constitutionality of the post-arrest
impoundment and search of his vehicle could substantially
interfere with the results reached in the state court
proceeding. See 31 Foster Children v. Bush, 329 F.3d
1255, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003) (noting the importance of
“whether the federal proceeding will interfere with an
ongoing state court proceeding” in determining whether
abstention is appropriate).
to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 53 (1971),
federal courts must abstain from hearing claims that would
interfere with pending state criminal proceedings, provided
that the party seeking federal relief has an adequate remedy
at law and has not shown that he will suffer irreparable
injury. Plaintiff, obviously, remains free to allege the same
constitutional violations at issue here in his state criminal
proceedings. He thus cannot demonstrate the lack of an
adequate remedy at law nor irreparable injury.
Younger. 401 U.S. at 47 (“Certain types of
injury, in particular, the cost, anxiety, and inconvenience
of having to defend against a single criminal prosecution,
could not by themselves be considered ‘irreparable'
in the special legal sense of that term.”). Thus, these
are arguments for the state court. See also Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 n. 8 (1994) (“[I]f a
state criminal defendant brings a federal civil-rights
lawsuit during the pendency of his criminal trial, appeal, or
state habeas action, abstention may be an appropriate
response to the parallel state-court
proceedings.”).Any claim regarding the exclusion of
evidence in his criminal proceedings must be
Tutt's premature discovery motions, docs. 5 & 11, are
DENIED. In addition to being rendered moot
by this Report and Recommendation (R&R), they are have
been improperly lodged with the Court rather than served in
compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b) (describing procedure for
service). Discovery requests are not filed with the
Court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(d) (initial disclosures and discovery
requests/responses are not filed until they are used
for a motion or the court orders them to be filed).
Tutt's Complaint should be DISMISSED for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and
his discovery motions are DENIED. Although
the Court sees no apparent basis upon which the deficient
claims could be amended, plaintiff's opportunity to
object to this R&R within 14 days affords him an
opportunity to resuscitate them. He may submit an Amended
Complaint during that period if he believes it would cure the
legal defects discussed above. See Willis v. Darden,
2012 WL 170163, at * 2 n.3 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 19, 2012) (citing
Smith v. Stanley, 2011 WL 1114503, at * 1 (W.D.
Mich. Jan. 19, 2011)). ...