Cioci v. Santos

Decision Date23 February 1965
Docket NumberNo. 10655,10655
Citation207 A.2d 300,99 R.I. 308
PartiesJohn F. CIOCI v. Constantine C. SANTOS et al. Ex.
CourtRhode Island Supreme Court

Pontarelli & Berberian, Aram K. Berberian, Providence, for plaintiff.

DiSpirito & Lind, Frank O. Lind, Jr., Woonsocket, for defendants.

ROBERTS, Justice.

This is an action of trespass for false imprisonment brought against three members of the police department of the town of Cumberland. The action arises out of the arrest of the plaintiff by the defendants without warrant on January 14, 1963. The matter was tried to a justice of the superior court sitting with a jury, who, after denying the plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict of guilty, submitted the case to the jury. A verdict of not guilty was returned. The plaintiff in this court is prosecuting a bill of exceptions to certain evidentiary rulings and the denial of his motion for a directed verdict of guilty.

The circumstances surrounding that arrest of plaintiff are not in substantial dispute. It appears that a clubhouse occupied by a veterans' organization located in the town of Cumberland was broken into on the night of December 23, 1962 and that some properties were removed therefrom, including liquor and money. The police thereafter, in the course of investigating this break, interrogated a number of juveniles. On January 14, 1963 two of these juveniles admitted to police interrogators that they had participated in this break along with plaintiff in the instant action. Upon being so informed, defendant Santos, who holds the rank of captain in the police department, ordered the defendant patrolmen to take plaintiff into custody. There is testimony that defendants knew plaintiff as one who had been in trouble with the law on prior occasions.

Thereafter these patrolmen observed plaintiff walking along a public highway in the company of another boy and took him into custody. Upon being informed by these patrolmen that he was under arrest, he voluntarily entered the police car and was taken to the police station in Cumberland where, at approximately 3:42 in the afternoon, he was locked in a cell. Shortly before 5 o'clock plaintiff was discovered hanging in the cell. He was cut down immediately, given appropriate aid, and was taken to Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket in an ambulance operated by the Ashton rescue squad.

Shortly thereafter on that same evening the authorities at Memorial Hospital informed Captain Santos that plaintiff should be removed to the Chapin Hospital in Providence. This was done by the Cumberland police, and he remained in that institution for a period of about ten days. On January 23, 1963 the hospital authorities informed the Cumberland police that plaintiff was ready for discharge, and he was taken from that institution to the district court in Central Falls for arraignment. It appears that thereafter plaintiff was indicted in connection with the break at the veterans' clubhouse in Cumberland and that, after a plea of nolo contendere, the imposition of sentence was deferred on that indictment, and plaintiff was released pursuant to the usual terms related to the deferment of sentence.

The instant action is for false imprisonment, the gist of which is the detention of another without his consent. 'The essential element of this tortious action is the restraint of another person without legal justification or without any color of legal authority.' Mailey v. Estate of DePasquale, 94 R.I. 31, 34, 177 A.2d 376, 379. The defendants have pleaded justification, contending that they are police officers of the town of Cumberland 'and had reason to believe that the plaintiff had committed a felony and therefore had a right to arrest and imprison the plaintiff.' It is to be noted that the plea is based upon the common-law concept of a lawful arrest and makes no reference to any statutory authority relating to the power of a police officer to arrest. In short, the primary issue raised by the pleadings was whether the arrest of plaintiff, being supported by probable cause, was a lawful arrest that made the detention of the plaintiff lawful.

The plaintiff contends that the instant arrest was unlawful on the constitutional ground that the concept of lawful arrest within the purview of the constitution is the common-law rule that arrest without a warrant, unless based on probable cause, is unlawful. It is true that the arrest of plaintiff in the instant case, unless made on the basis of probable cause, was unlawful and the detention subsequent thereto would be actionable as false imprisonment. In Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134, the court said at page 102, 80 S.Ct. at page 171: 'Probable cause exists if the facts and circumstances known to the officer warrant a prudent man in believing that the offense has been committed. * * * It is important, we think, that this requirement be strictly enforced, for the standard set by the Constitution protects both the officer and the citizen. If the officer acts with probable cause, he is protected even though it turns out that the citizen is innocent.' The United States Supreme Court has also noted that 'The quantum of information which constitutes probable cause--evidence which would 'warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief' that a felony has been committed * * * must be measured by the facts of the particular case.' Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 479, 83 S.Ct. 407, 413, 9 L.Ed.2d 441.

The spedific contention of plaintiff in urging lack of probable cause for the instant arrest goes to the conceded fact that the information upon which defendants rely as establishing probable cause came to them by way of the statements of two juveniles who, admitting participation in the break, stated that plaintiff had participated therein with them. The plaintiff concedes that information sufficient to constitute probable cause may be acquired through an informer but argues that for such information to constitute probable cause, the informer must be reliable. He argues from this that the information on which probable cause is posited in this case came from two juveniles who were accomplices in...

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11 cases
  • State v. Kimbro
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 20, 1985
    ...of probable cause to arrest applies as much to the information provided as to the informant who provides it. Cioci v. Santos, 99 R.I. 308, 313, 207 A.2d 300 (1965). The transcript also discloses that Howard testified on direct that the informant told him that the defendant was on Dixwell Av......
  • State v. Stevens
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1993
    ...from acting to protect the well-being of such person, particularly in circumstances arising out of an emergency...." Cioci v. Santos, 99 R.I. 308, 315, 207 A.2d 300 (1965). Diamanti deferred instead to the judgment of emergency medical personnel who had decided to transport the injured defe......
  • State v. Soroka
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • November 9, 1973
    ...n. 2 (1972).2 State v. Roach, 106 R.I. 280, 259 A.2d 119 (1969); State v. Almeida, 105 R.I. 687, 255 A.2d 151 (1969); Cioci v. Santos, 99 R.I. 308, 207 A.2d 300 (1965).3 General Laws 1956 (1968 Reenactment) § 24-10-17 provides that:'Any person who endeavors by words, gestures or otherwise t......
  • State v. Locke
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • August 13, 1980
    ...238 Pa.Super. 62, 352 A.2d 515 (1975). The Page case is distinguishable from the instant case. Instead, our ruling in Cioci v. Santos, 99 R.I. 308, 207 A.2d 300 (1965), controls the issue before us. In Cioci after the plaintiff attempted suicide the arresting officers of the town of Cumberl......
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