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Martinez v. Brown

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 21, 2017

JASON C. BROWN, individually and in his official capacity with the Albuquerque Police Department; CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE, a municipal entity organized under the laws of the STATE OF NEW MEXICO, and its Subsidiary, the ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.


          M. CHRISTINA ARMIJO Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion [for] Summary Judgment Based on Qualified Immunity, filed August 29, 2016. [Doc. 37] This Court has considered the Motion, the briefs, the relevant law, and is otherwise fully informed. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.


         The following facts are undisputed. The events underlying this lawsuit were precipitated by a report to the Albuquerque Police Department that Plaintiff had crashed his vehicle into the center median at an intersection. [Doc. 37 ¶¶ 1-2; Ex. C.] Albuquerque Police Officer Jerry Arnold was the first officer to arrive on the scene. [Doc. 37 ¶ 1; Ex. A-1] Officer Arnold found Plaintiff sitting in the driver's seat of his vehicle with the door open. [Doc. 37 ¶¶ 1-3; Doc. 37-1 ¶¶ 5-6] When Officer Arnold asked Plaintiff how much he had been drinking, Plaintiff replied “not much.” [Doc. 37 ¶ 4; Ex. A-1] Later, Plaintiff told the officer that he had not been drinking and later still, he told the officer that the last time he had a drink was in the afternoon. [Id.] Plaintiff's answers to Officer Arnold's other questions were given in slurred speech, and were uncertain-for example Plaintiff said that he did not know where he was, and he stated that he was headed “nowhere.” [Doc. 37 ¶ 5; Doc. 37-1 ¶¶ 9-10; Ex. A-1] After Plaintiff told Officer Arnold that he was not injured and that he did not need an ambulance, Officer Arnold informed the EMTs who had arrived on the scene that they were not needed. [Doc. 37 ¶ 6; Doc. 37-1 ¶ 11; Ex. A-1; see Doc. 44 p. 3, ¶ 3] Based upon his observations, which he construed as signs of impairment, Officer Arnold requested a DWI unit. [Doc. 37 ¶ 8; Doc. 37-1 ¶ 13]

         Officer Jason Brown, one of the Defendants in this matter, responded to the request of a DWI unit. [Doc. 37 ¶ 10; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 4] When Officer Brown arrived, Plaintiff was standing outside of his vehicle speaking with Officer Arnold. [Doc. 37 ¶ 11; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 5] Officer Arnold told Officer Brown that Plaintiff was “probably intoxicated.” [Doc. 44 ¶ 4; Ex. A-1] Officer Brown noticed an inoperable ignition interlock device on the driver's side floor of Plaintiff's vehicle. [Doc. 37 ¶ 11; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 6; Ex. B-1] When Officer Brown questioned Plaintiff, Plaintiff gave varying and conflicting answers in response to questions regarding his alcohol consumption-stating first that he had a beer in the afternoon and subsequently stating that he had a beer the previous day. [Doc. 37 ¶13; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 8; Ex. B-1] Plaintiff also gave conflicting answers regarding his intended destination-stating that he was going to work at city hall, at the hospital, and at UNM. [Doc. 37 ¶¶ 12, 16; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 11]

         After conversing with Plaintiff, Officer Brown decided to administer field sobriety tests. [Doc. 37 ¶ 14; Doc. 37-2 ¶¶ 7-9; Ex. B-1] Before administering the tests, Officer Brown asked Plaintiff whether he had any medical conditions that would interfere with his ability to perform the tests. [Doc. 37 ¶ 14; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 9; Ex. B-1] Plaintiff denied having any such conditions. [Doc. 37 ¶ 14; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 9; Ex. B-1]

         Officer Brown administered five tests. [Ex. B-1] Although Plaintiff said that he understood the instructions for the tests, the officer had to repeat them several times. [Doc. 37 ¶ 15; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 10; Ex. B-1] And, ultimately, Plaintiff performed poorly on each test. [Doc. 37 ¶ 17; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 12; Ex. B-1] Officer Brown arrested Plaintiff and took him to the Prisoner Transport Center. [Doc. 37 ¶ 18; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 14; Ex. B-1] There, he gave Plaintiff a breath test which yielded a negative result for alcohol. [Doc. 37 ¶ 19; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 14] Officer Brown then requested that Officer Matt Trahan, a drug recognition expert (DRE), evaluate Plaintiff. [Doc. 37 ¶ 20; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 15; Doc. 37-3] Officer Trahan's “drug recognition investigation” led him to conclude that Plaintiff was under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant which rendered him unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. [Doc. 37 ¶ 20; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 15; Doc. 37-3]

         Officer Brown learned that Plaintiff, who had seven or more DWI convictions, had a revoked driver's license and was on probation. [Doc. 37 ¶ 23; Doc. 37-2 ¶ 16; Doc. 37-4] The Probation and Parole Division of the New Mexico Corrections Department issued an arrest order which prohibited Plaintiff from being released on a bond. [Doc. 37 ¶¶ 22- 23; Doc. 37-4] Facts regarding Plaintiff's detention, which are set forth in this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order pertaining to Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Requesting Dismissal of Plaintiff's Claims Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (Counts IV, V, and VI) Against Defendant City of Albuquerque (Doc. 19), are irrelevant to the issue of qualified immunity and are not repeated here.

         Plaintiff filed a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that Officer Brown violated his Constitutional rights. [Doc. 1-1] Defendants' present Motion pertains to Count I, a Fourth Amendment based claim against Officer Brown of unreasonable search and seizure; Count II, a Fourth Amendment based § 1983 claim against Officer Brown of false arrest and false imprisonment; and Count III a § 1983 claim against the City for failure to train and supervise Officers Brown and Trahan. Defendants argue that Officer Brown is entitled to qualified immunity, and, therefore, the derivative claim against the City fails as a matter of law. [Doc. 37 p. 10-20]

         Standard of Review

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows summary judgment when the evidence submitted by the parties establishes that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. An issue is “genuine” when the evidence before the Court is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmovant as to that issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-52 (1986). A fact is “material” if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Id. at 248. Judgment is appropriate as a matter of law if the nonmovant has failed to make an adequate showing on an essential element of its case, as to which it has the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670-71 (10th Cir. 1998).

         It is not the Court's role to weigh the evidence, assess the credibility of witnesses, or make factual findings in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Daniels v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 701 F.3d 620, 627 (10th Cir. 2012). Rather, the Court assumes the admissible evidence of the nonmovant to be true, resolves all doubts against the movant, construes all admissible evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmovant. Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 551-52 (1999).

         Qualified Immunity

          “Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. The privilege is an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability[.]” Jiron v. City of Lakewood, 392 F.3d 410, 414 (10th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or ...

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