Parker v. Town of Woodworth, 14-943

CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
Docket Number14-943
Decision Date04 March 2015




March 4, 2015



Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy H. Ezell and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.


Page 2

COOKS, Judge.


Patricia Parker (Parker) and two of her co-workers, Rufus Smith and Gracie Jackson (Jackson), were travelling to work shortly before 6:00 A.M. on the morning of January 4, 2009, in the Town of Woodworth, Louisiana (Town). The three were employed by the Methodist Conference Center located on a private drive, Methodist Parkway. After turning off of U.S. Highway 165, Parker proceeded on Coulee Crossing Road, a public roadway, for approximately two miles. Officer David R. Godwin (Godwin) of the Woodworth City Police Department began following Parker's pick-up truck proceeding on Coulee Crossing Road with his dash cam video recording Parker's vehicle. Parker was driving within the posted speed limit. When Parker approached Methodist Parkway she engaged her right turn signal light. As she turned onto Methodist Parkway, Godwin immediately engaged the lights on his police unit signaling Parker to pull over. Godwin admitted Parker had not committed any traffic violation but testified he stopped her vehicle solely because "he wanted to see who she was" and "where she was going." Parker recalled Godwin telling her he pulled her over because she and her occupants looked suspicious. Godwin could not recall whether he told Parker that she or her vehicle looked suspicious, and he could not articulate any basis for describing the vehicle or Parker as suspicious. The video introduced at trial shows Godwin had Parker's vehicle on camera well before she turned onto Methodist Parkway. Godwin, however, testified he just happened to be turning onto Methodist Parkway at the same time as Parker. The video also shows Parker was driving normally. Nothing in the video reveals anything "suspicious" about Parker's pick-up truck, the manner in which it was

Page 3

being operated, or the behavior or appearance of its occupants. The video also shows, just after Godwin stopped Parker's vehicle, another automobile turned onto Methodist Parkway. The driver of that vehicle drove slowly past Godwin and proceeded down the road without Godwin making any attempt to stop that car.

Parker was cooperative at all times during the stop. She immediately explained to Godwin that she and her passengers, all dressed in black and white uniforms, were reporting to work at the Methodist Center for the breakfast shift. When she inquired as to the reason for the stop, Godwin explained he wanted to find out why they were going down that road at such an early hour before daylight. He did not accuse Parker of any traffic violation, driving erratic, or any manner of driving unlawfully. Despite Parker's explanation, Godwin detained Parker and ran a computer check on her driver's license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Parker explained the vehicle was owned by her live-in boyfriend. When Godwin ran a check on Parker's driver's license, the insurance card, and vehicle registration, he was informed via the State of Louisiana computerized system that Parker's driver's license was suspended. When he informed Parker of this information she explained she had paid the necessary fine for a prior driving offense and she in fact possessed a valid driver's license which was not under suspension. She offered to show documents to Godwin to prove she had paid the fines and fees for that offense and that her current license was valid. Godwin would not consider the documents and informed Parker he must rely only upon the State computer's database for information regarding the status of her license. Godwin also informed Parker the registration card she presented was expired. He issued Parker multiple citations including a citation for driving under suspension, unlawful use of a driver's license, operating a vehicle not covered by

Page 4

insurance/security, and for not having a current registration. Godwin testified he issued the additional citation for unlawful use of a driver's license because Parker was driving with a license under suspension. He also explained he issued the citation for driving without insurance/security because it was his understanding that a driver without a valid license could not obtain insurance on a vehicle. This he did despite Parker showing him an insurance card indicating current insurance coverage on the vehicle in the name of its registered owner.

Godwin asked if any of the passengers had a driver's license. He testified he asked this because if they had a license he might allow them to drive the vehicle from the scene. He then testified after he was told both passengers did not have a driver's license he informed Parker he would not allow either of the passengers to drive the vehicle. Parker testified she called her supervisor already working at the Methodist Center and asked her to meet her and bring a licensed driver to drive the pick-up truck to the Methodist Center parking area. The videotape of the encounter confirms Parker's testimony in this regard. Godwin then informed Parker he would not allow any licensed driver to drive the truck the short distance down the private road to the Methodist Center because the owner of the vehicle was not present to authorize such an individual to drive the vehicle. Godwin had the truck towed from the private road by a private towing service at a cost of $193.61. There is no evidence in the record that Godwin obtained anyone's permission to tow the vehicle from private property. In addition to this cost, the fines for the traffic citations issued to Parker totaled $1,060.00. The Town of Woodworth ultimately sought to collect over $1,500.00 from Parker.

Page 5

When Parker and the owner of the truck went to retrieve the vehicle they were told a hold had been placed on the vehicle by the Town pending payment of the fines. Parker and the owner of the vehicle visited the local Louisiana State Police Office where they were informed that the hold was not proper. After a State Police officer telephoned a Town official concerning the impropriety of the hold, the owner was allowed to retrieve his vehicle. Parker paid the towing fee so that the owner could recover his vehicle.

Parker attempted to address the matter with the Mayor of Woodworth who is the magistrate judge over such proceedings. The Mayor spoke with Parker in the hallway at City Hall at which time Parker presented him with proof that the vehicle was insured by its owner at the time of the stop and that the owner had a current registration for the vehicle at the time of the stop. She asked for additional time to obtain documents to prove that her license was not under suspension and that she had paid all prior fines and fees on the charge of driving without a license. She was given to February 18, 2009, to provide such proof. The charge of no registration was dismissed. Parker returned to see the Mayor on February 18, 2009, and presented documentation showing her license was not, in fact, suspended when she was stopped by Godwin. Documentation from the State of Louisiana shows that Parker paid her fine for driving without a license on July 18, 2008. This document was of record with the State at the time Godwin stopped Parker. Parker also presented the Mayor with another document from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Public Safety Services, dated January 1, 2009, which shows that Parker's ticket for driving without a license had been paid and that she was cleared to receive a new driver's license

Page 6

which she then obtained. Thus, it is clear when Parker was stopped on January 4, 2009, by Godwin, she presented a newly issued, valid driver's license to Godwin. Despite Parker's presentation of documentary evidence to the Mayor, he then asked her how much money she had with her. She responded she only had about $300.00. The Mayor informed her she could at least pay the unlawful use of a driver's license charge that day. Despite Parker's payment of this ticket in the amount of $215.00, as the Mayor demanded, the Town of Woodworth filed a bill of information charging Parker with all four of the charges reflected in the original traffic citations. Parker was charged with driving a vehicle with no insurance despite an acknowledgement in writing on the Bill of Information that proof of insurance on the vehicle was provided but "subject was not covered on [the] policy." She also was charged with having no registration, although this charge had been dismissed and the Mayor had already demanded and accepted payment for the unlawful use of a driver's license charge.

On April 14, 2009, Parker filed suit against Godwin and the Town of Woodworth. On or about June 3, 2009, the Magistrate's Court for the Town of Woodworth issued warrants for the arrest of Patricia Nicole Parker for failure to pay $810.00 on the charge of "driving under suspension or revocation" and for failure to pay $770.00 for "no insurance." On July 20, 2009, the Town and Godwin filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in this litigation which was denied. This court denied writs. On August 31, 2009, pursuant to the warrants issued by the Town, Parker was arrested at her home, with her minor children present, and spent twenty-five (25) days in jail. On May 25, 2011, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town of Woodworth and Godwin dismissing all of Parker's claims. Parker appealed. This court issued a ruling on Parker's appeal

Page 7

on March 7, 2012. In that opinion entitled Parker v. Town of Woodworth, Et Al., 11-1275, pp. 2-3 (La.App. 3 Cir. 3/7/12), 86 So.3d 141,142-43 (emphasis added), this court found:

[H]andwritten notes

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT