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Homeowner and guest may sue Southgate police officers for wrongful arrest (or "seizure").

Kendra Huckaby, from Kentucky, was visiting her friends Faith Pierce and Joseph Barton.  As she packed to leave, a neighbor observed her unfamiliar car and called police, suggesting that she was commiting a burglary. Several officers responded.  They placed Huckaby in the back of the cruiser and entered the home where they encountered Barton and PIerce.  After some confusion, Pierce was alleged knocked to the floor by officers, and Huckaby and PIerce were arrested and transported to police headquarters, where they were detained for five additional hours.  They later filed "1983" claims against the individual officers, arguing that they had been illegally detained, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, because the officers lacked "probable cause" to seize and detain them.

The trial court ruled that the officers had probable cause to arrest Huckaby and summarily dismissed her claim.  It denied the officers' request for summary disposition as to Pierce's claim, however, and the officers and Huckaby both appealed.

The Court of Appeals pointed out that in ruling that the officers had qualified immunity for their actions in arresting Huckaby, the lower court had mistakenly interpreted the events completely in accordance with the officers' account of the facts and therefore had wrongly decided the facts against Huckaby, the non-moving party.  When the Court examined the complete record, it found that if a jury accepted the conflicting account of the arrest victims, which it might reasonably do, the officers would not be entitled to immunity.  It noted, in particular, the fact that they encountered Pierce in her pajamas, as well as Pierce's claims that she provided immediate circumstantial evidence of her ownership of the home, including large photographs of she and her husband, Barton, on the wall, as  well as Huckaby's claims that she was never asked for identification.  It also pointed to the conflict of testimony with regard to whether the officers had promised to wait downstairs for Barton to retrieve his identification.

Most likely, as a practical matter, it didn't hurt the victims' burden of persuasion that Barton is a local minister.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262