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Officer denied qualified immunity for arrest made in operating while intoxicated case

Posted on Monday, May 14, 2018

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the District Court that an officer is not entitled to qualified governmental immunity and denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a published opinion in Romo v. Largen, July 23, 2013 (Docket No. 12-1870). Plaintiff Candido Romo was sitting in the driver seat of his parked car, when he was approached by officer Jeff Largen. Romo was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Romo filed a suit under §1983 for violation of his constitutional rights and intentional torts. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals viewed the denial of officer’s qualified governmental immunity on the facts and noted that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest Romo for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Romo contended “he was sleeping off the night of drinking and that he could not drive because he did not have the keys.” While it is possible for the police to have probable cause, the Court reasoned that merely sitting in a car does not satisfy probable cause. The 6th Circuit Court further noted that a fact finder could find that the officer acted with malice. The officer’s police report that described the incident claimed he saw in his rear view mirror a tan Dodge Ram van passing a semi tanker in the no passing zone. The police report noted that Romo denied driving and stated that the officer did not follow the van because the officer made a U- turn and lost sight of the van and then the officer saw Romo’s parked van. According to the 6th Circuit, “If the officer lied on his police report in order to obtain prosecution against Romo, that is strong evidence of malice.” The only question here is whether the officer was acting in good faith or with malice. Here, it was clear that the officer acts were with malice and a fact finder would draw an inference of actual malice.

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