On March 11, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its opinion in Ulrich v. City of Shreveport, et al., involving a claim for false arrest.
The facts of the case
A detective in the Shreveport Police Department swore out an affidavit stating that Ulrich had committed battery.
After investigation, Bossier Child Protective Services concluded that there was no cause to proceed. The charges against Ulrich were dismissed in February 2008.
Subsequently, the Shreveport City Attorney and the detective who originally swore out the affidavit sent the case to district court for further prosecution.
A bench warrant was issued for Ulrich’s arrest. About three weeks later, Ulrich was released and the charges dropped.
Ulrich filed suit in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, alleging violations of her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. (Read more about Section 1983 here.)
The claim against the detective for false arrest
In pursuing her claim against the detective, Ulrich relied primarily upon a rule of law known as the “Franks violation.”
The term “Franks violation” comes from the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155-56 (1978).
To establish a Franks violation, a plaintiff who was arrested based upon the filing of a false affidavit by law enforcement must demonstrate:
(1) the officer filing the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant included a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, and
(2) the false statement was necessary to the finding of probable cause and, thus, to the issuance of the arrest warrant (in other words, the judge would not have issued the warrant but for the false information).
The Fifth Circuit concluded that Ulrich could not prevail in her claim against the detective because his affidavit was not the legal cause of Ulrich being arrested.
Specifically, the court concluded that the arrest warrant issued for Ulrich was based upon her failure to appear in district court in response to two prior summons.
The detective had played no role in the decision of the district court to issue that arrest warrant. He had only been involved in the prior arrest of Ulrich.
The decision of the detective to refer the case to district court (even though the charge against Ulrich had already been dismissed)
As to this, the Fifth Circuit held that Ulrich only alleged simple negligence.
The Court said: “To allege a Franks claim, Ulrich had to plead that the detective made a ‘knowing and intentional omission.’ Her allegations of simple negligence fail to meet that standard.”
The Fifth Circuit also examined claims under Louisiana law against the detective and the City of Shreveport. It found those to be without merit and affirmed the dismissal of those claims.
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