MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Last Term, in Procunier v. Navarette, 434 U.S. 555 (1978), we granted certiorari to consider the question whether negligent conduct can form the basis of an award of damages under 42 U. S. C. § 1983. The constitutional violation alleged in Procunier was interference on the part of prison officials with a prisoner's outgoing mail. The complaint alleged that the prison officials had acted with every conceivable state of mind, from "knowingly" and in "bad faith" to "negligently and inadvertently." We granted certiorari, however, only on the question "[w]hether negligent failure to mail certain of
Following oral argument and briefing on the merits, the Court held that since the constitutional right allegedly violated had not been authoritatively declared at the time the prison officials acted, the officials were entitled, as a matter of law, to prevail on their claim of qualified immunity. Quoting from Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 322 (1975), we observed: "Because [the prison officials] could not reasonably have been expected to be aware of a constitutional right that had not yet been declared, [they] did not act with such disregard for the established law that their conduct `cannot reasonably be characterized as being in good faith.'" 434 U. S., at 565. It was thus unnecessary to reach the question on which certiorari had been granted.
In the instant case, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit saw the focal issue as whether petitioner Baker, the sheriff of Potter County, Tex., had negligently failed to establish certain identification procedures which would have revealed that respondent was not the man wanted in connection with the drug charges on which he was arrested. Accordingly, it withheld decision until our opinion in Procunier was handed down. Finding no guidance in Procunier on the question whether an allegation of "simple negligence" states a claim for relief under § 1983, the Court of Appeals proceeded to answer that question affirmatively, holding that respondent was entitled to have his § 1983 claim presented to the jury even though the evidence supported no more than a finding of negligence on the part of Sheriff Baker. We granted certiorari. 439 U.S. 1114 (1979).
Having been around this track once before in Procunier, supra, we have come to the conclusion that the question whether an allegation of simple negligence is sufficient to state a cause of action under § 1983 is more elusive than it appears at first blush. It may well not be susceptible of a uniform
The first inquiry in any § 1983 suit, therefore, is whether the plaintiff has been deprived of a right "secured by the Constitution and laws." If there has been no such deprivation, the state of mind of the defendant is wholly immaterial.
Leonard McCollan and respondent Linnie Carl McCollan are brothers. Leonard somehow procured a duplicate of Linnie's driver's license, identical to the original in every respect except that, as the Court of Appeals put it, "Leonard's picture graced it instead of Linnie's." McCollan v. Tate, 575 F.2d 509, 511 (CA5 1978). In October 1972, Leonard, masquerading as Linnie, was arrested in Potter County on narcotics
On December 26, 1972, Linnie was stopped in Dallas for running a red light. A routine warrant check revealed that Linnie Carl McCollan was wanted in Potter County, and respondent was taken into custody over his protests of mistaken identification. The Dallas Police Department contacted the Potter County Sheriff's Department, compared the identifying information on respondent's driver's license with that contained in the Potter County arrest records, and understandably concluded that they had their man. On December 30, Potter County deputies took custody of respondent and placed him in the Potter County Jail in Amarillo. He remained there until January 2, 1973, when officials compared his appearance against a file photograph of the wanted man and, recognizing their error, released him.
Respondent brought this damages action "pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and . . . [§] 1983." App. 6. After each party had rested his case, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas directed a verdict in favor of Sheriff Baker and his surety, Transamerica Insurance Co., without articulating its reasons. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed. Characterizing respondent's cause of action as a "[§] 1983 false imprisonment action," the Court of Appeals determined that respondent had made out a prima facie case by showing (1) intent to confine, (2) acts resulting in confinement, and (3) consciousness of the victim of confinement or resulting harm. The question in the court's view thus became whether Sheriff Baker was entitled to the defense of qualified immunity, which in turn depended on the reasonableness
Respondent's claim is that his detention in the Potter County jail was wrongful. Under a tort-law analysis it may well have been. The question here, however, is whether his detention was unconstitutional. For, as the Court of Appeals recognized, a public official is liable under § 1983 only "if he causes the plaintiff to be subjected to deprivation of his constitutional rights." 575 F. 2d, at 512 (emphasis in original). Despite this recognition, the Court of Appeals analyzed respondent's so-called "[§] 1983 false imprisonment action" exclusively in terms of traditional tort-law concepts, relying heavily on the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965). Indeed, nowhere in its opinion does the Court of Appeals specifically identify the constitutional right allegedly infringed in this case. Because respondent's claim and the Court of Appeals' decision focus exclusively on respondent's prolonged detention caused by petitioner's failure to institute adequate identification procedures, the constitutional provision allegedly violated by petitioner's action is presumably the Fourteenth Amendment's protection against deprivations of liberty without due process of law.
By virtue of its "incorporation" into the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fourth Amendment requires the States to provide a fair and reliable determination of probable cause as a condition for any significant pretrial restraint of liberty. Gerstein
In this case, respondent was arrested pursuant to a facially valid warrant, and the Court of Appeals made no suggestion that respondent's arrest was constitutionally deficient. Indeed, respondent makes clear that his § 1983 claim was based solely on Sheriff Baker's actions after respondent was incarcerated:
For purposes of analysis, then, this case can be parsed with relative ease. Absent an attack on the validity of the warrant under which he was arrested, respondent's complaint is
Respondent's innocence of the charge contained in the warrant, while relevant to a tort claim of false imprisonment in most if not all jurisdictions, is largely irrelevant to his claim of deprivation of liberty without due process of law.
The Fourteenth Amendment does not protect against all deprivations of liberty. It protects only against deprivations of liberty accomplished "without due process of law." A reasonable division of functions between law enforcement officers, committing magistrates, and judicial officers—all of whom may be potential defendants in a § 1983 action—is entirely consistent with "due process of law." Given the requirements that arrest be made only on probable cause and that one detained be accorded a speedy trial, we do not think a sheriff executing an arrest warrant is required by the constitution
The Court of Appeals closed its opinion with the following summary of its holding:
Section 1983 imposes liability for violations of rights protected by the Constitution, not for violations of duties of care arising out of tort law. Remedy for the latter type of injury must be sought in state court under traditional tort-law principles. Just as "[m]edical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner," Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), false imprisonment does not become a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment merely because the defendant is a state official.
Having been deprived of no rights secured under the United States Constitution, respondent had no claim cognizable under
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring.
The Court long has struggled to define the "liberty" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court today looks to the provisions of the Bill of Rights that have been "incorporated" into the Due Process Clause, including the right to be free from unreasonable seizures, the right to bail, and the right to a speedy trial, and, finding that none of those specifically incorporated rights apply here, concludes that petitioner did not deny respondent due process in holding him in jail during a holiday weekend. Ante, at 144-145.
The Court's cases upon occasion have defined "liberty" without specific guidance from the Bill of Rights. For example, it has found police conduct that "shocks the conscience" to be a denial of due process. Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165, 172 (1952). Mr. Justice Harlan once wrote: "This `liberty' is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of [the Bill of Rights]. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints." Poe v. Ullman, 367 U.S. 497, 543 (1961) (dissenting opinion). See also Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 152-156 (1973).
The Court today does not consider whether petitioner's conduct "shocks the conscience" or is so otherwise offensive to the "concept of ordered liberty," Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937), as to warrant a finding that petitioner denied respondent due process of law. Nothing in petitioner's conduct suggests outrageousness. He had been sheriff for only 40 days when this incident occurred, and, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to respondent, petitioner's error lay solely in failing to supervise the conduct of the
I do not understand the Court's opinion to speak to the possibility that Rochin might be applied to this type of case or otherwise to foreclose the possibility that a prisoner in respondent's predicament might prove a due process violation by a sheriff who deliberately and repeatedly refused to check the identity of a complaining prisoner against readily available mug shots and fingerprints. Such conduct would be far more "shocking" than anything this petitioner has done. The Court notes that intent is relevant to the existence of a constitutional violation, ante, at 140 n. 1, it reserves judgment as to whether a more lengthy incarceration might deny due process, ante, at 144, and it concludes only that "every" claim of innocence need not be investigated independently, ante, at 145-146. I therefore do not agree with MR. JUSTICE STEVENS' suggestion, post, at 154 n. 14, that a prisoner in respondent's predicament would be foreclosed from seeking a writ of habeas
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting.
While I join the dissenting opinion of my Brother STEVENS, I would add one or two additional words. As I view this case, neither "negligence" nor "mere negligence" is involved. Respondent was arrested and not released. This constituted intentional action and not, under these circumstances, negligence. For despite respondent's repeated protests of misidentification, as well as information possessed by the Potter County sheriff suggesting that the name in the arrest warrant was incorrect, see post, at 151 (STEVENS, J., dissenting), petitioner and his deputies made absolutely no effort for eight days to determine whether they were holding an innocent man in violation of his constitutionally protected rights.
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL join, dissenting.
When a State deprives a person of his liberty after his arrest, the Constitution requires that it be prepared to justify not only the initial arrest, but the continued detention as well.
Respondent's brother Leonard was arrested by a member of the City of Amarillo Police Force on September 11, 1972; city police officers photographed and fingerprinted him. On October 6, 1972, he was transferred to the custody of the sheriff of Potter County. At that time, contrary to normal practice, the Potter County sheriff's office took possession of the driver's license the brother was carrying. They did so because it was apparent that the license had been altered. The sheriff testified that an alteration of that kind established a likelihood that the arrested was using an alias.
A professional surety posted bond and respondent's brother was released. On November 3, 1972, for reasons that do not appear in the record, the bondsman sought and received an order allowing him to surrender respondent's brother. A warrant for his re-arrest was therefore issued. Since the brother had been masquerading as respondent, the warrant was issued in respondent's name.
The sheriff's deputies allowed respondent to remain in the Dallas lockup for four days before they picked him up. At the time they did so, they failed to follow an identification procedure used by comparable sheriff's offices. They did not take the pictures and fingerprints in the file with them to Dallas to be sure that they had the man they wanted. Nor, when they returned to the Potter County jail, did they refer to the pictures or the prints notwithstanding respondent's continued protests of misidentification and the ready availability of the information.
The ensuing four days included a holiday weekend when the sheriff was apparently away from his office. It was nevertheless a busy period for his staff since about 150 prisoners were being detained in a jail designed to house only 88.
It is evident that respondent's 8-day imprisonment would have been at least cut in half if any one of several different procedures had been followed by the sheriff's office. If his brother's file had been marked to indicate that he was probably using an alias, a more thorough and prompt identification check would surely have been made; if he had been transferred from Dallas to Potter County promptly, he apparently would have arrived before the sheriff left for the holiday weekend. If a prompt pickup was not feasible, a prompt mailing of the fingerprints and photographs would have revealed the error; if the deputies who picked him up had taken the fingerprints and photographs with them, he would have been released in Dallas; if the file had been checked when he arrived at the Potter County jail, or if the sheriff had delegated authority to review complaints of misidentification during his absence, respondent would not have spent four days in the Potter County jail. In short, almost any regular procedures for verifying an arrestee's identification would have resulted in the prompt release of respondent.
The Due Process Clause clearly protects an individual from conviction based on identification procedures which are improperly suggestive. In a criminal trial, that Clause requires the exclusion of evidence obtained through procedures presenting "a very substantial likelihood of . . . misidentification." Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377, 384. Fair procedures must be used, to prevent an "irreparable misidentification" and the resulting deprivation of liberty attaching to
Pretrial detention unquestionably involves a serious deprivation of individual liberty. "The consequences of prolonged detention may be more serious than the interference occasioned by arrest. Pretrial confinement may imperil the suspect's job, interrupt his source of income, and impair his family relationships." Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 114. The burdens of pretrial detention are substantial ones to impose on a presumptively innocent man, even when there is probable cause to believe he has committed a crime.
In rejecting respondent's claim that his mistaken detention violated his constitutional rights, the Court today relies on two alternative rationales. First, it seems to hold that the constitutional right to a speedy trial provides adequate assurance against unconstitutional detentions, so long as the initial arrest is valid. I cannot agree. A speedy trial within the meaning of the Constitution may take place weeks or months—if not years—after the initial arrest.
Alternatively, the majority relies on the fact that the last three days of respondent's detention occurred over a holiday weekend to establish that the deprivation of his liberty was so minimal as not to require procedural protections. Whatever relevance the holiday might have to the sheriff's good-faith defense
Certainly, occasional mistakes may be made by conscientious police officers operating under the strictest procedures. But this is hardly such a case. Here, there were no identification procedures. And the problems of mistaken identification are not, in my judgment, so insubstantial that the absence of such procedures, and the deprivation of individual liberty which results from their absence, should be lightly dismissed as of no constitutional significance. The practice of making a radio check with a centralized data bank is now a routine policy, followed not only in every traffic stop in Potter County,
I respectfully dissent.
"These adversary safeguards are not essential for the probable cause determination required by the Fourth Amendment. The sole issue is whether there is probable cause for detaining the arrested person pending further proceedings. This issue can be determined reliably without an adversary hearing. The standard is the same as that for arrest. That standard—probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a crime— traditionally has been decided by a magistrate in a nonadversary proceeding on hearsay and written testimony, and the Court has approved these informal modes of proof." 420 U. S., at 120 (footnote omitted).