749 F.3d 573 (6th Cir. 2014), 13-3874, Kinlin v. Kline

Docket Nº:13-3874
Citation:749 F.3d 573
Opinion Judge:RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:MICHAEL J. KINLIN, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. SHAWN KLINE, Defendant - Appellee
Attorney:Jonathan E. Rosenbaum, Elyria, Ohio, for Appellant. Jennifer S. M. Croskey, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee. Jonathan E. Rosenbaum, Elyria, Ohio, for Appellant. Jennifer S. M. Croskey, Morgan A. Linn, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appel...
Judge Panel:Before: GILMAN, GIBBONS, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:May 21, 2014
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 573

749 F.3d 573 (6th Cir. 2014)

MICHAEL J. KINLIN, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

SHAWN KLINE, Defendant - Appellee

No. 13-3874

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 21, 2014

Argued April 29, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 1:12-cv-00581--Dan A. Polster, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Jonathan E. Rosenbaum, Elyria, Ohio, for Appellant.

Jennifer S. M. Croskey, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Jonathan E. Rosenbaum, Elyria, Ohio, for Appellant.

Jennifer S. M. Croskey, Morgan A. Linn, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: GILMAN, GIBBONS, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 574

RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

On the evening of March 11, 2011, Ohio State Trooper Shawn Kline observed Michael Kinlin change lanes immediately after signaling, a maneuver that Trooper Kline determined could not be made safely because it positioned Kinlin's car too closely between the car in front of him and the car behind him. This caused Trooper Kline to pull Kinlin over for the traffic violation. Trooper Kline then asked Kinlin how much he had had to drink. Kinlin admitted that he had consumed two beers earlier that evening. The admission caused Trooper Kline to request that Kinlin submit to a field sobriety test. When Kinlin refused, Trooper Kline arrested him.

Kinlin sued, claiming that Trooper Kline violated Kinlin's civil rights because the trooper lacked probable cause to either stop Kinlin's vehicle or to arrest him. The district court decided as a matter of law that Kinlin had suffered no civil rights violation because probable cause did in fact exist for both the stop and the arrest. It therefore determined that qualified immunity shielded Trooper Kline from suit despite the fact that a subsequent breathalyzer test showed that Kinlin was not legally intoxicated. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual background

Most of the relevant events in this case are captured on a video recording taken by a camera installed in Trooper Kline's cruiser. On March 11, 2011, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Trooper Kline was on patrol on Lake Avenue in Elyria, Ohio when he observed the left-turn signal being

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activated on a silver Nissan in the right lane just as the car moved into a narrow space between two cars in the left lane of the four-lane street. Trooper Kline followed the Nissan for approximately 30 more seconds until the driver of the Nissan signaled to left turn. After completing the turn himself, Trooper Kline activated his lights and siren and pulled the Nissan over.

Trooper Kline got out of his cruiser and approached the Nissan. He informed the driver, later identified as Kinlin, that he had stopped Kinlin because Kinlin had nearly cut off the car behind him and had " cut left of center" just before the intersection. Kinlin responded that the car behind him had " about two feet" of space when Kinlin pulled in front. Trooper Kline noted, however, that this was less than one car's length and thus unsafe. He also reiterated that he had observed the Nissan cross the street's center line. Kinlin responded that he did not know what Trooper Kline was talking about with respect to crossing the center line. Trooper Kline then asked Kinlin how much alcohol Kinlin had consumed that evening. Kinlin answered that he had drunk " two beers."

When Trooper Kline instructed Kinlin to " step out," Kinlin complied, walking behind the Nissan and in front of Trooper Kline's cruiser. Kinlin appeared somewhat disheveled--his tie was loose and dangling below his neck--but he did not appear off-balance. Trooper Kline ushered Kinlin just out of view of his cruiser's camera and began instructing Kinlin with regard to a field sobriety test. Kinlin said in response: " I'm not doing a test. I just told you I had two beers. I'm not drunk."

Trooper Kline then informed Kinlin that he was under arrest. Kinlin replied: " You're kidding me." Trooper Kline responded: " You know what? You don't want to take my test?" Kinlin again responded that he would not submit a field sobriety test. Trooper Kline then said: " One more chance, you want to take my test?" Kinlin responded a third time that he would not take the test. Trooper Kline then said, " You're under arrest. Turn around." He also said: " I can smell alcohol." Kinlin continued to protest that he had consumed only two beers. Trooper Kline responded that he could smell alcohol and also noted that Kinlin's eyes were glassy.

Kinlin finally agreed to submit to a field sobriety test while Trooper Kline was patting him down. But Trooper Kline informed Kinlin that, " at this point, we're going to go off of your test results." The test, administered later that evening, indicated that Kinlin had a blood-alcohol content of .012%, well below Ohio's legal limit of .08%.

B. Procedural background

Kinlin sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He claimed that Trooper Kline violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures because Trooper Kline did not have probable cause to initiate the traffic stop and because Trooper Kline did not have probable cause to arrest Kinlin after Kinlin refused the field sobriety test.

Both parties moved for summary judgment. Trooper Kline argued that Kinlin suffered no constitutional violation because there was probable cause for both the stop and the subsequent arrest. Moreover, Trooper Kline asserted that qualified immunity protected him from suit because his arrest of Kinlin did not violate any clearly established law to the contrary. Kinlin, in turn, argued that the evidence Trooper Kline cited was insufficient as a matter of law to provide probable cause

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for either the stop or the subsequent arrest.

The district court agreed with Trooper Kline. It held that " video [evidence] confirms that Trooper Kline had probable cause to stop Kinlin for making an unsafe lane change." The district court also held that Trooper Kline had probable cause to arrest Kinlin because Kinlin (1) made an unsafe lane change, (2)...

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