Ray v. City of Chicago

Citation629 F.3d 660
Decision Date03 February 2011
Docket NumberNo. 09-3719,09-3719
PartiesNona RAY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF CHICAGO and Chicago Police Officer Malinowski # 7028, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)

Kenneth N. Flaxman (argued), Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Sara K. Hornstra (argued), Office of the Corporation Counsel, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before CUDAHY, ROVNER and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

In October 2008, Malinowski, a police officer, stopped Nona Ray for operating a motor vehicle at night without headlights. During this stop, Malinowski and his partner discovered a package containing controlled substances within Ray's car. The officers arrested Ray and took her to a nearby police station, where she was detained for several hours before being charged with possession of a controlled substance and subsequently released. Ray later filed suit against the City of Chicago and police officer Malinowski, alleging that their actions violated the Constitution's prohibition on unreasonable seizures and deprived her of her rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

The district court dismissed Ray's claims for failure to allege facts sufficient to support a finding that her constitutional rights had been violated. We affirm.

I. Background

On October 17, 2008, Malinowski observed Ray operating an automobile at night without its headlights turned on. Malinowski and his partner pulled Rayover, instructing Ray and her passenger to leave the vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Malinowski or his partner discovered a plastic bag containing what they believed to be cocaine inside Ray's car. The officers placed Ray under arrest and took her to a nearby police station, where she was eventually charged with possession of a controlled substance. The exact length of Ray's detention is unclear, however the parties' pleadings agree that Ray was detained for several hours. The criminal charge against Ray for possession was dropped at her first court appearance.

Pursuant to Section 7-24-225 of the Municipal Code of Chicago, Malinowski impounded Ray's vehicle following her arrest. Section 7-24-225 of the Code provides that, when arresting individuals for possession of a controlled substance in a motor vehicle, police officers "shall provide for the towing of the vehicle to a facility controlled by the city" and that "the owner of record of any motor vehicle that contains any controlled substance ... shall be liable to the city for an administrative penalty ... plus any applicable towing and storage fees."

On November 19, 2008, Ray contested the seizure of her vehicle at a proceeding before the City of Chicago's Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). She argued that she had been unaware that there were drugs in her car, that the drugs did not belong to her and, hence, that she should not have to pay the statutory fine or the costs associated with impounding her vehicle. The City's counsel argued that the ordinance imposed strict liability on the owners of vehicles that contain controlled substances. At the conclusion of the proceeding, the hearing officer agreed with the City's interpretation of the ordinance and entered a finding ordering Ray to pay $2,180 in fees and costs.

On December 12, 2008, Ray filed a complaint against the City of Chicago and Officer Malinowski in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Ray's complaint alleged that she was deprived of rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. It also included a supplemental state claim seeking administrative review of the DOAH's finding, as well as a challenge to the constitutionality of the ordinance.

On October 7, 2009, the district court granted defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. The district court found that Ray's complaint failed to allege facts sufficient to support any of her claims for relief. Ray currently appeals from the district court's dismissal of her claims.

II. Discussion

We apply the de novo standard when reviewing a district court's determination that a plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, accepting as true all well-pleaded allegations and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir.2008). However, we "need not accept as true legal conclusions, or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir.2009). Complaints need only provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" that is "sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim and its basis." Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., Inc., 536 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir.2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). While the federal pleading standard is quite forgiving, our recent decisions have emphasized that "the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to reliefthat is plausible on its face." Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 463 (7th Cir.2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

Ray contends that the district court erred when it dismissed her complaint. Our review of the district court's decision is somewhat complicated by the vague and inarticulate claims for relief that are set forth in Ray's complaint and the variety of ways that her counsel has interpreted these claims over time. Yet, because we find that Ray has failed to plead facts that are sufficient to support any of the claims she could have plausibly meant to assert, we affirm the district court's judgment.

A. Claims Based on Ray's Arrest and Post-Arrest Detention

Ray's complaint appears to allege that the police violated her Fourth Amendment rights when they arrested and detained her. On appeal, Ray has clarified the bases of her claim, arguing (1) that her arrest constituted an illegal seizure because the police officers lacked probable cause to believe that she was guilty of possessing a controlled substance and (2) that the officers detained her for an unreasonably long period of time after arresting her.

The district court did not err in dismissing Ray's arrest-related claim. Where a police officer "has probable cause to believe that an individual has committed even a very minor criminal offense in his presence, he may, without violating the Fourth Amendment, arrest the offender." Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 354, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 149 L.Ed.2d 549 (2001). This is true even if the minor criminal offense is a traffic offense. United States v. Childs, 277 F.3d 947, 953 (7th Cir.2002) ( en banc). So long as a police officer has probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime, then it is not constitutionally relevant whether "the person was arrested on ... charges for which there was no probable cause." Holmes v. Village of Hoffman Estates, 511 F.3d 673, 682 (7th Cir.2007). Ray has conceded that she committed a traffic violation in the presence of Malinowski and his partner. Under Atwater and Childs, this provided the police with all of the probable cause they needed to arrest Ray without violating the Fourth Amendment. See Atwater, 532 U.S. at 324-25, 121 S.Ct. 1536.

The district court's dismissal of Ray's post-arrest detention claim was also proper. Ray is correct in asserting that the law does not grant police officers carte blanche after issuing a traffic citation to detain a motorist to investigate other possible criminal activity. United States v. Figueroa-Espana, 511 F.3d 696, 702-03 (7th Cir.2007); United States v. Finke, 85 F.3d 1275 (7th Cir.1996). Indeed, we have held that in such situations the police are required to release individuals "as soon as the officers have assured themselves that no skullduggery is afoot." Childs, 277 F.3d at 952. The rules are considerably different, however, when police officers actually arrest an individual—such individuals "need not be released as quickly as possible." Id. at 952. A person arrested without a warrant may be held prior to a judicial determination of probable cause for a "brief period" to carry out "the administrative steps incident to arrest." Chortek v. City of Milwaukee, 356 F.3d 740, 746 (7th Cir.2004) (citing Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 113-14, 95 S.Ct. 854, 43 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975)). When considering this issue in a case presenting analogous facts, we held that detention times ranging from three to fourteen and one-half hours were not constitutionally unreasonable absent any evidence that the delay in releasing the arrested individuals was motivatedby an improper purpose. Chortek, 356 F.3d at 747-48. Because Ray has not alleged that the length of her detention exceeded this time frame or that it was the result of illicit motives, she has failed to state a claim for which we can grant relief.

B. Claims Based on Ray's Allegedly Malicious Prosecution

Ray's complaint contains a claim that could be interpreted to include an allegation that Defendants violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by causing her to be charged with possession of a controlled substance. On appeal, Ray has argued that her complaint states that the police planted the drugs that provided the basis for Ray's possession charge and, hence, that it alleges facts sufficient to support a malicious prosecution tort claim.

The district court decision to dismiss this claim was correct. Federal courts are rarely the appropriate forum for malicious prosecution claims. We have previously stated that individuals do not have a "federal right not to be summoned into court and prosecuted without probable cause, under either the Fourth Amendment or the ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
264 cases
  • Hobbs v. Cappelluti, Case No. 10 C 7649
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • September 28, 2012
    ...Indeed, a Brady violation occurs at trial, and Hobbs was never brought to trial in his criminal case. See Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir. 2011); Bielanski v. Cnty. of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 645 (7th Cir. 2008). Moreover, "a coerced confession alone cannot constitute a Brady......
  • Ocasio v. Turner, Cause No. 2:13–CV–303–PRC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 14, 2014
    ...that “ ‘[f]ederal courts are rarely the appropriate forum for malicious prosecution claims.’ ” Id. (quoting Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir.2011)). A federal constitutional claim of malicious prosecution under § 1983 is actionable only when no adequate state-law remedy ex......
  • Economan v. Cockrell, Case No. 1:20-CV-32
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • November 23, 2020
    ...factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. (quoting Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 662-63 (7th Cir. 2011); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to......
  • Armstrong v. Daily, s. 13–3424
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • May 11, 2015
    ...tried before he can sue is drawn from cases applying the Brady obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence. See Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir.2011) (expressing doubt whether a plaintiff has a civil claim for a Brady violation “when the individual is merely charged with ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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