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Boyce v. Bell

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 14, 2018



          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Ladarius Boyce, who is representing himself, filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He filed an amended complaint on December 29, 2017. This case was originally assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin; however, because not all parties have had the opportunity to consent to magistrate judge jurisdiction, the case was randomly reassigned to the undersigned U.S. District Court judge for screening of the amended complaint.

         Motion to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act gives courts discretion to allow prisoners to proceed with their lawsuits without prepaying the $350 filing fee, as long as they comply with certain requirements. 28 U.S.C. §1915. One of those requirements is that the prisoner pay an initial partial filing fee. On January 5, 2018, Judge Duffin ordered plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $32.60. He paid that fee on February 23, 2018. The court will grant plaintiff's motions to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (ECF Nos. 3, 9). He must pay the remainder of the filing fee over time in the manner explained at the end of this decision.

         Screening of the Complaint

         The law requires the court to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff raises claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

         To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, "that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         To proceed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the defendant was acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court gives a pro se plaintiff's allegations, "however inartfully pleaded, " a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         Allegations in the Complaint

         Plaintiff explains that, on July 17, 2017, at 1 a.m., he was driving a purple Monte Carlo with four of his children. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Zachary Bell pulled him over. Bell's report states that he observed plaintiff driving 60 m.p.h in a 50 m.p.h zone and that plaintiff's registration lamp (i.e., the light that illuminates the license plate) was out.

         After Bell pulled over plaintiff, he learned that plaintiff had neither a license nor insurance papers for the vehicle. Bell allegedly told plaintiff to call someone to come pick him and the children up. Plaintiff states that he called the children's mother, Ms. Ebone. Bell then informed plaintiff that he learned from the dispatcher that plaintiff was on probation; Bell arrested plaintiff and placed him in the back of his squad car. When Ms. Ebone and another person arrived to pick up the children, Bell ran a check on her license plate. He then took all three adults into custody. The following day, plaintiff's probation agent placed a hold on him and he remains in custody to this day.

         Plaintiff argues that Bell violated the Fourth Amendment when he stopped him because he cannot prove plaintiff was speeding. He notes that Bell did not issue him a citation for speeding.

         The Court's Analysis

          “When a police officer reasonably believes that a driver has committed even a minor traffic offense, probable cause supports the stop.” United States v. Garcia-Garcia,633 F.3d 608, 613 (7th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff argues that Bell cannot prove that he was speeding; he points to the fact that Bell did not issue plaintiff a citation for speeding. But the fact that the officer did not issue a citation does not mean that the officer did ...

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