Bickford v. Hensley

<p>FILED United States Court of Appeals UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS Tenth Circuit FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT October 23, 2020 _________________________________ Christopher M. Wolpert Clerk of Court EMMITT BICKFORD, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. No. 19-5092 (D.C. No. 4:18-CV-00097-TCK-JFJ) RYAN HENSLEY, in his individual (N.D. Okla.) capacity; OSAGE COUNTY SHERIFF, in his official capacity, Defendants - Appellees. _________________________________ ORDER AND JUDGMENT* _________________________________ Before HARTZ, MATHESON, and CARSON, Circuit Judges. _________________________________ The Fourth Amendment generally requires the government to obtain an arrest warrant based on probable cause before hauling a person off to jail. And if a state actor violates that principle, he may be liable for false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That cause of action is, of course, subject to the affirmative defense of qualified immunity—the key issue we consider today. In this case, a police officer submitted generalized affidavits to a magistrate to secure arrest warrants for forty-four alleged co-conspirators in a marijuana * This order and judgment is not binding precedent, except under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel. It may be cited, however, for its persuasive value consistent with Fed. R. App. P. 32.1 and 10th Cir. R. 32.1. distribution ring, including Plaintiff Emmitt Bickford. On the strength of that affidavit, the magistrate issued an arrest warrant for Plaintiff and the officer subsequently arrested him. Several of the allegations in the officer’s affidavit, however, did not pertain to Plaintiff. In fact, the officer only had reason to believe that Plaintiff may have been a marijuana user at the end of the distribution chain based on a year-old Facebook message between third-parties that the officer failed to mention in the affidavit. So the officer arrested Plaintiff without any evidence that he had committed the charged conspiracy-related offenses. And in Oklahoma, the jurisdiction where these events unfolded, an officer may not arrest an individual for simple use or possession of marijuana occurring outside of the officer’s presence. Plaintiff sued for false arrest and malicious prosecution. But the district court granted summary judgment to the Defendants based on qualified immunity. Our jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s false arrest claim to Defendants on qualified immunity grounds. I. Deputy Ryan Hensley carried out the Osage County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into a marijuana distribution ring in rural Oklahoma. During the investigation, local prosecutors charged forty-four alleged co-conspirators, including Plaintiff, with conspiracy to distribute marijuana (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 63, § 2-408 and § 2-101) and using a computer to violate Oklahoma law (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, 2 § 1958). Deputy Hensley prepared nearly identical affidavits to secure arrest warrants for each suspect. Each affidavit contained nine total statements, some of which focused on the supposed kingpin and others on the alleged actions of lower level co-conspirators. After a magistrate granted the warrant request on the strength of Deputy Hensley’s affidavit, Deputy Hensley arrested Plaintiff. Over one year later, however, a court dismissed ...</p><br>
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