Sober woman will get jury trial on question of illegal arrest
Catrena Green was arrested in Ohio and charged with operating her vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. She was stopped after failing to dim her headlights when she encountered an oncoming police officer. While there were minor discrepencies in the evidence, the officer essentially claimed that she evidenced a suggestion of intoxication and performed inadequately on field sobriety tests. She was arrested, her vehicle was searched and impounded and she spent two days in jail before her blood alcohol documented that she was "clean" and all charges were dropped.The trial judge dismissed Green's Section 1983 constitutional violation claim, holding that the arresting officer enjoyed qualified immunity because there was probable cause for his stop and subsequent arrest. Green appealed, arguing that the evidence proved her entirely innocent and that she was entitled to a jury decision with regard to probable cause.
The Sixth Circuit rejected the "innocense" argument, pointing out that in rare situations entirely innocent behavior can still constitute an adequate basis for an officer to identify probable cause for arrest. Nevertheless, the Court reversed the lower court and returned the case for jury trial. The appellate panel noted that the video of the evident, along with other factual evidence, was equivocal in support of the officer's claims and that it was for the jury to resolve the issue of probable cause.