Civil Rights Violation Against State Police Dismissed

The 1st circuit court of appeals on April 15th dismissed a civil rights violation case brought against state police officers in MICHAEL J. FOLEY, v. LAWRENCE KIELY; GERALD P. COLLINS; DIANA DIPIETRANTONIO, No. 09-1250.

The court stated in deciding the case, “Plaintiff-appellant Michael Foley appeals the dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Defendants Lawrence Kiely and Gerald Collins, Massachusetts State Troopers, and Defendant Diana DiPientrantonio, a sergeant with the Massachusetts State Police. Foley claims that Troopers Kiely and Collins unconstitutionally seized and arrested him. The District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, and after a de novo review, we affirm.”

The troopers viewed Foley several times at a park and “At approximately 10:30 p.m., Collins returned to the park with Kiely. Kiely and Collins both observed Foley walking along the water, and Foley “sought to avoid unnecessary contact with [them].” According to Kiely and Collins, Foley attempted to duck behind some shrubbery along the waterside. Kiely approached Foley and asked him for his name, and Foley replied, “Foley, Michael Foley.” Kiely then asked Foley for his date of birth, and Foley provided it. The troopers also asked Foley for his Social Security number, but he refused to provide it, allegedly saying that he did not know it. Foley alleges that the troopers then told him that he could not leave and prevented him from leaving by grabbing him.

The troopers conducted a warrant check using the name and date of birth that Foley had provided and found that a person of that date of birth and name had a Board of Probation (“BOP”) record and that there was an outstanding federal National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”) warrant for the arrest of that person out of the state of Florida. The Florida warrant was dated April 24, 1974. Kiely contacted Troop Headquarters to confirm the information, and the dispatcher at Headquarters verified that there was an outstanding NCIC warrant out of Florida matching the name and date of birth provided by Foley. Because Foley told the troopers that he had never been to Florida, Kiely sought and obtained additional information from Foley to attempt to confirm that Foley was the subject of the warrant. Foley on inquiry provided his mother’s maiden name as “Peters,” and the dispatcher at Troop Headquarters told Kiely that according to the BOP record, the mother’s name was Marjorie Peters. Though Foley had not provided a Social Security number, the Social Security number on the BOP record matched the Social Security number on the Florida warrant. The information provided in the Warrant Management System indicated that Miami Dade County, Florida would extradite.

Foley was placed under arrest for being a fugitive from justice and transported by Kiely to the State Police barracks in Framingham. The total length of the stop prior to Foley’s arrest is unclear from the record, but we will assume that it was no longer than an hour, as Foley concedes. At Foley’s arraignment on December 6, 2004, bail was set. Because Foley was unable to post bail, he was transported to Middlesex County Jail, where he was held for approximately ten days until the criminal charge against him was dismissed.

The fact that the troopers detained Foley for as much as one hour while performing the warrant check is also not problematic, especially as the facts reveal that any delay was largely caused by the troopers’ attempts to confirm the warrant’s validity. “The excessive length of [Foley’s] detention arose not because the officers engaged in dilatory tactics, but, instead, because their investigative efforts . . . failed to dispel the suspicion that gave rise to the stop.” McCarthy, 77 F.3d at 531 (holding that a seventy-five minute Terry stop was reasonable).

We note that Foley does not argue that the force which he alleges the troopers employed in detaining him violated his constitutional rights. His argument is simply that the troopers lacked a reasonable basis on which to detain him, and as we have discussed above, that argument fails.

Foley next challenges the validity of the Florida warrant as a basis for his arrest, arguing that no warrant ever existed and that the computer print-out produced as evidence of the warrant was generated as part of a cover-up to justify Foley’s illegal detention. As we have already discussed, Foley’s initial detention was justified by reasonable suspicion separate and apart from the results of the warrant check.

As for the validity of the warrant itself, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, § 23A, provides that “a printout of the electronic warrant from the criminal justice information system [“CJIS”] shall constitute a true copy of the warrant.” Thus, the CJIS record of the Florida warrant was statutorily sufficient for the troopers to make an arrest.

Moreover, it was reasonable for the troopers to believe that Foley was the individual named in the warrant, as both his name and birthdate matched, and the Social Security number from his BOP record matched the Social Security number listed in the warrant.

As the warrant was valid on its face and matched the identifying information which Foley had provided, Kiely and Collins had probable cause to effectuate the arrest and did not deprive Foley of any constitutional rights in so doing. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137 (1979); Brady v. Dill, 187 F.3d 104 (1st Cir. 1999).

We conclude that in detaining and subsequently arresting Foley, Kiely and Collins did not violate his constitutional rights. The judgment of the district court is affirmed.”

Commentary,

The fact that he made an effort to conceal himself from the officers late at night in a prohibited area is more than enough reason to stop and conduct a Terry stop of the defendant. That the information he provided matched exactly with that of an outstanding warrant is certainly probable cause to arrest him as a fugitive from justice. The case is a good illustration of those topics as well as being a massive waste of time for the Federal Judges and courts personnelwho sat in deciding it.

Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

About Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

Ronald A. Sellon is a licensed Attorney in the state of Massachusetts and U.S. District Court, Massachusetts as well as a Sergeant with a Municipal Police Department and U.S. military Veteran. Additionally, he has taught Criminal Procedure at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree and has written a text on Criminal Procedure for police field training officer programs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was a 2008 recipient of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) Presidents award and holds a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and a Juris Doctor Law Degree. Questions related to content material may be directed to RSellon@PoliceLegalPromotions.com
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