United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Aikens (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, brings
this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
Officer Boyter (“Defendant”) violated his Fourth
Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.
Plaintiff filed this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C.,
the undersigned Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the
Complaint for relief and submit findings and recommendations
to the District Court. For the reasons explained below, the
Complaint is subject to summary dismissal.
is a pretrial detainee and is currently incarcerated at the
Greenwood County Detention Center. [Doc. 1-2 at 2.] Plaintiff
commenced this action by filing a single-page, hand-written
Complaint. [Doc. 1.] Pursuant to this Court's Order dated
September 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint on the
standard form. [Doc. 1-2.] The Court construes both documents
together as the Complaint in this matter.
makes the following allegations. On January 29, 2019,
Defendant falsely accused Plaintiff of driving a car that he
was not driving. [Doc. 1 at 1.] Defendant charged Plaintiff
with driving under suspension, failure to stop for blue
light, driving without a seatbelt, and possession of cocaine
base. [Id.] Plaintiff exited the passenger side of
the car and ran, and, during the ensuing foot chase,
Defendant said, “stop, Demarcus Carroll.”
[Id.] There were two people in the car and Demarcus
Carroll was the driver and Plaintiff was the passenger.
[Id.] Defendant said that Plaintiff crossed over
from the driver side to the passenger side and exited the car
while the car was still moving. [Id.] Plaintiff
contends the video from the police car dash cam and from
Defendant's body camera will show that Defendant's
account is a lie. [Id.] Later, Defendant pulled the
same car over with Carroll driving and Plaintiff in the back
seat. [Id.] Defendant arrested Carroll and told him
that he knew he was driving the night he locked Plaintiff up.
[Id.] Plaintiff was locked up and given a $100, 000
bond on charges for crimes that he did not commit. [Doc. 1-2
at 5.] For his relief, Plaintiff seeks $200, 000 in damages
for pain and suffering, false imprisonment, and slander.
Court takes judicial notice that Plaintiff has been charged
in the Greenwood County Court of General Sessions with the
following offenses, which remain pending against him at this
time: (1) driving under suspended license, third offense, at
case number 20191110080563; (2) seatbelt violation at case
number 201911100805634; (3) seatbelt violation at case number
20191110080565; (4) driving under suspension at case number
2019A2420100006; (5) manufacturing or distributing cocaine
base, third offense, at case number 2019A2420100090; (6)
weapons violation at case number 2019A2420100091; and (7)
resisting arrest at case number 2019A2420100092. See
Greenwood County Eighth Judicial Circuit Public Index,
available at https://publicindex.sccourts.org/
Greenwood/PublicIndex/PISearch.aspx (search by
Plaintiff's first and last name) (last visited Oct. 4,
2019); see also Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem. Hosp., 572
F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (explaining that courts
“may properly take judicial notice of matters of public
record”); Colonial Penn Ins. Co. v. Coil, 887
F.2d 1236, 1239 (4th Cir. 1989) (“We note that
‘the most frequent use of judicial notice is in
noticing the content of court records.'”).
filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in
forma pauperis statute, which authorizes the district court
to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action
“fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted,
” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or
“seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). Further, Plaintiff appears to be a prisoner
under the definition in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), and
“seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a). Thus, even if Plaintiff had prepaid the full filing
fee, this Court would still be charged with screening
Plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to
dismiss the Complaint if (1) it is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, his pleadings are accorded
liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard
than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). However,
even under this less stringent standard, the pro se pleading
remains subject to summary dismissal. The mandated liberal
construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the
Court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid
claim on which Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but
a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims
that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174
F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct
Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v.
Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or
“conjure up questions never squarely presented”
to the Court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d
1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal
construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear
failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a
claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller
v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir.
Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
“‘is not itself a source of substantive
rights,' but merely provides ‘a method for
vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'”
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994)
(quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3
(1979)). A civil action under § 1983 “creates a
private right of action to vindicate violations of
‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws' of the United States.”
Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 361 (2012) (quoting
42 U.S.C. § 1983). To state a claim under § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a
right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was
committed by a person acting under the color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
contends that Defendant violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
[Doc. 1-2 at 3.] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant falsely accused him, committed perjury, slandered
his name, and falsely imprisoned him. [Id. at 3-5.]
Despite these allegations, the Complaint is subject to
summary dismissal for the reasons below.
crux of this action appears to be a challenge to
Plaintiff's arrest and incarceration for the charges
noted above. Liberally construed, Plaintiff's Complaint
appears to assert a claim for false arrest and/or false
imprisonment and a claim for slander. For his relief,
Plaintiff purports to seek money damages.
extent Plaintiff brings a claim based on the Fourth Amendment
alleging false arrest, he fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. The constitutional right to be free
from unreasonable searches and seizures is well settled.
Merchant v. Bauer, 677 F.3d 656, 662 (4th Cir.
2012). To state a claim for false arrest, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that he was arrested without probable cause.
Sowers v. City of Charlotte, 659 Fed.Appx. 738, 740
(4th Cir. 2016). The state court records noted above reflect
that a grand jury issued indictments in the criminal actions
pending against Plaintiff and that a judge in the state court
issued warrants for Plaintiff. Accordingly, because Plaintiff
was indicted on the state charges about which he complains in
this case and because warrants were issued, his allegations
of false arrest fail to state a claim. A grand jury
indictment is affirmative evidence of probable cause
sufficient to defeat claims for false arrest and malicious
prosecution under § 1983. See Durham v. Horner,
690 F.3d 183, 189 (4th Cir. 2012) (explaining that an
indictment, fair upon its face, returned by a properly
constituted grand jury conclusively determines the existence
of probable cause); see also Provet v. South
Carolina, No. 6:07-1094-GRA-WMC, 2007 WL 1847849, at *5
(D.S.C. June 25, 2007) (explaining § 1983 claims of
false arrest and malicious prosecution were precluded because
of indictment). Therefore, Plaintiff fails to allege a
plausible claim for false arrest, ...