ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judge.
David Sosa may have cursed his luck when the Martin County Sheriff's Department pulled him over for a traffic violation in November 2014. "[W]hen ill luck begins, [though,] it does not come in sprinkles, but in showers."
When the officer ran Sosa's name, the computer indicated an outstanding Harris County, Texas, warrant from 1992 for a different David Sosa (the "wanted Sosa"). Though some of the identifying details for the wanted Sosa and Sosa differed, the deputy arrested Sosa and took him back to the station. There, deputies fingerprinted Sosa, and he spent three hours in jail before they determined that he was not the wanted Sosa.
Three-and-a-half years later, it happened again! On April 20, 2018, the same Martin County Sheriff's Department (though a different deputy) stopped Sosa as he drove. Once again, the deputy checked Sosa's name in the computer system and found the same outstanding warrant for the wanted David Sosa. Sosa told the deputy about his mistaken 2014 arrest on that warrant and advised the deputy of differences between himself and the wanted Sosa. But once again, the deputy arrested him and took him back to the station. This time, though, Sosa had to spend three days and nights in jail before the Department acknowledged that he was not the wanted Sosa and finally released him.
Trying to avoid a third stay at the county jail for someone else's misdeeds, Plaintiff-Appellant Sosa filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against the Defendants-Appellees Martin County Sheriff's Department and the deputies involved in the second incident. In it, Sosa alleged that the Defendants-Appellees violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by falsely arresting him, overdetaining him, and failing to institute policies and train deputies to prevent these things from happening (the "Monell claim"
Detention—and particularly protracted detention—of an innocent person obviously seriously interferes with that person's liberty interests. So when a law-enforcement officer receives information that suggests that he has the wrong person in custody, the Fourteenth Amendment requires him to take some action to resolve those doubts. Because Sosa sufficiently alleged facts establishing that Defendants-Appellees failed to take any action for three days and nights after they learned of information that raised significant doubts about Sosa's identity, we vacate the district court's order dismissing the overdetention claim and remand for further proceedings.
As we've mentioned, Sosa had the misfortune to be arrested and detained twice
According to that filing, Sosa has lived in Martin County, Florida, since 2014. There, he works for Pratt and Whitney and its affiliates in research and development on airplane engines.
While Sosa was driving in Martin County, in November 2014, a Martin County Sheriff's deputy pulled him over for a routine traffic stop. During the encounter, the deputy reviewed Sosa's driver's license. After running Sosa's name through the Department's computer system, the deputy learned that an outstanding warrant for a David Sosa had been issued out of Harris County, Texas, in connection with that David Sosa's conviction for selling crack cocaine in 1992. The warrant set forth identifying characteristics for the wanted David Sosa, including his date of birth, height, weight, tattoo information (he had at least one), and other details. Plaintiff-Appellant Sosa pointed out to the officer that his own date of birth, height, and weight—a 40-pound difference between himself and the wanted David Sosa existed —did not match the information for the wanted Sosa and that, unlike the wanted Sosa, he had no tattoos. The deputies arrested Sosa, anyway, and took him to the station.
There, they fingerprinted and detained him. Sosa told two Martin County jailers that he was not the wanted Sosa and explained that identifiers like date of birth differed between the two. After about three hours, a deputy determined that Sosa was not the wanted Sosa and released him.
But no one created a file or otherwise documented that Sosa was not the wanted Sosa. Nor did the Sheriff's Department have any system to prevent Sosa's future mistaken arrest on the wanted Sosa's warrant.
So perhaps not that surprisingly, Sosa had a similar misadventure not long after his 2014 incident. On April 20, 2018, a different deputy of the Martin County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Killough, pulled Sosa over for a traffic stop. Sosa provided Killough with his license, and when Killough ran it, he discovered the open warrant for the wanted Sosa. Sosa explained that he was not the wanted Sosa and told Killough he had previously been incorrectly arrested on that warrant and released when deputies realized the error. Sosa also noted that he and the wanted Sosa did not share the same birthdate, Social Security number, or other identifying information.
But Killough arrested Sosa and impounded his truck, anyway. When Killough took Sosa to the Martin County jail, Sosa "repeatedly explained to many Martin County employees ... that his date of birth and other identifying information was different than the information on the warrant for the wanted ... Sosa." In particular, Sosa so advised Deputy Sanchez and some other Martin County deputies in the booking area. They wrote down Sosa's information and told him they would follow up on the matter.
The next day, Sosa appeared by video before a magistrate judge. Though Sosa attempted to explain the mistaken identity, "several Martin County jailers threatened him and told him not to talk to the judge
Finally, on April 23, deputies fingerprinted Sosa and then released him at about 3:00 p.m. In the meantime, he had missed work and then had to pay to retrieve his truck from impoundment.
Though the Sheriff's Department twice arrested and detained Sosa in error on the wanted Sosa's Texas warrant, the Sheriff's Department still created no file or other documentation to prevent the same thing from happening yet again.
Sosa had enough, and he filed suit against Martin County and the individual deputies. In his Amended Complaint, he brought a single count under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights. The claim asserted that Martin County, the Sheriff's Department, and the individual deputies violated Sosa's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by arresting and detaining him without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. It also alleged that the Sheriff and the County lacked adequate written policies and failed to train and supervise the deputies properly concerning arrests on outstanding warrants.
Sosa's complaint sought injunctive relief precluding the Martin County Sheriff's Department from arresting and detaining Sosa on the wanted Sosa's warrant, requiring the Sheriff and the County to maintain a file on Sosa as it relates to the wanted Sosa's warrant, and directing the Sheriff and the County to implement policies and train employees to avoid arresting and detaining individuals who are not wanted but who have the same names as those for whom a warrant is outstanding. The complaint also demanded compensatory and punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs.
Besides that, Sosa indicated his intentions to seek to represent and certify two classes: (1) a class of all David Sosas who are not the wanted Sosa and (2) a class of all "individuals falsely arrested or detained on warrants," where the person arrested or detained, or both, was not the person identified in the outstanding warrant.
Martin County moved to dismiss and separately, the Sheriff, Killough, and Sanchez filed their own motion to dismiss. The County first asserted that it could not be held responsible for the Sheriff's actions. In the alternative, it, along with the Sheriff, contended Sosa failed to make out a Monell claim because he did not establish that they had a policy or custom that caused the deprivation of his rights. Deputies Killough and Sanchez asserted that they were entitled to qualified immunity.
The district court granted the motions to dismiss. It concluded that the deputies did not violate Sosa's constitutional rights with either their arrest or detention of Sosa, so it did not reach the question of qualified immunity on either issue. As for Sosa's Monell claim against Martin County and the Sheriff in his official capacity, the court determined that Sosa could not succeed on it because he failed to show that the deputies had violated his constitutional rights.
Sosa now appeals.
We review de novo an order dismissing a case under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., for failure to state a claim. Lanfear v. Home Depot, Inc., 679 F.3d 1267, 1275 (11th Cir. 2012). In so doing, for purposes of our analysis, we accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must include enough factual matter "to raise a right to
We begin with the false-arrest and overdetention claims. As we have noted, the deputies assert qualified-immunity defenses to each.
A. The Doctrine of Qualified Immunity
Qualified immunity exists in part "to prevent public officials from being intimidated —by the threat of lawsuits ... — from doing their jobs." Foy v. Holston, 94 F.3d 1528, 1534 (11th Cir. 1996). In the course of their jobs, officers must sometimes rely on imperfect information to make quick decisions. See, e.g., Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). Nevertheless, those decisions must be reasonable to fall within qualified immunity's ambit. See id. at 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865; see also Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d 1262, 1266 (11th Cir. 2014). So when we consider whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity, we balance "the need to hold [officers] accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield [them] from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009).
Qualified immunity shields from liability "all but the plainly incompetent or one who is knowingly violating the federal law." Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1194 (11th Cir. 2002) (citation and quotation marks omitted). But it does not extend to an officer who "knew or reasonably should have known that the action he took within his sphere of official responsibility would violate the constitutional rights of the [plaintiff]." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982) (citation and quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original).
To invoke qualified immunity, a public official must first establish that he was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority when the challenged action occurred. Maddox v. Stephens, 727 F.3d 1109, 1120 (11th Cir. 2013). When we speak of "discretionary authority," we mean all actions the official took (1) in performing his duties and (2) in the scope of his authority. Jordan v. Doe, 38 F.3d 1559, 1566 (11th Cir. 1994). Here, the deputies satisfied this requirement, as they arrested and detained Sosa while performing their official duties.
Because the deputies were acting within the scope of their discretionary authority, the burden shifts to Sosa to demonstrate that qualified immunity is inappropriate. See id. To do that, the factual allegations in Sosa's complaint must establish two things: (1) the deputies violated his constitutional rights not to be arrested and not to be detained for three days and nights on a warrant for a different David Sosa; and (2) those rights were "clearly established ... in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition[,]" at the time of the deputies' actions, so as to have provided fair notice to the deputies that their actions violated Sosa's rights. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001), overruled in part on other grounds by Pearson, 555 U.S. 223, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565; Perez v. Suszczynski, 809 F.3d 1213, 1218 (11th Cir. 2016).
We separately consider in Section III.B. whether the deputies are entitled to qualified immunity on Sosa's false-arrest claim and in Section III.C on his overdetention claim.
B. The deputies are entitled to qualified immunity on Sosa's false-arrest claim
As relevant here, the Fourth Amendment, incorporated to apply to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 142, 99 S.Ct. 2689, 61 L.Ed.2d 433 (1979), protects individuals against unreasonable seizures, U.S. Const. amend. IV. Because they involve unreasonable seizures, constitutional claims for false arrest against state public officials arise under the Fourth Amendment. See Carter v. Butts Cnty., 821 F.3d 1310, 1319 (11th Cir. 2016) ("An arrest is a seizure[.]").
An arrest complies with the Fourth Amendment if it is supported by probable cause. Barnett v. MacArthur, 956 F.3d 1291, 1296-97 (11th Cir. 2020). But when the arresting officer raises a qualified-immunity defense, a § 1983 plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to establish that the deputies did not have even arguable probable cause to arrest him. Cozzi v. City of Birmingham, 892 F.3d 1288, 1293-94 (11th Cir. 2018). Probable cause for an arrest exists when the totality of the circumstances renders the arrest objectively reasonable. Barnett, 956 F.3d at 1296-97. And "a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity, not an actual showing of such activity," satisfies that standard. D.C. v. Wesby, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 577, 586, 199 L.Ed.2d 453 (2018) (citation and quotation marks omitted). As for arguable probable cause, that exists when "reasonable officers in the same circumstances and possessing the same knowledge" as the arresting officer could have thought there was probable cause to arrest the plaintiff. Brown v. City of Huntsville, 608 F.3d 724, 734 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted).
Where, as here, a warrant has issued, that warrant represents a determination of probable cause. See United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922-23, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). But because the warrant involved here was for a different David Sosa than Plaintiff-Appellant Sosa, we must engage in an extra layer of analysis to determine whether Deputy Killough's arrest of Sosa on the wanted Sosa's warrant violated Sosa's Fourth Amendment rights. See Rodriguez v. Farrell, 280 F.3d 1341, 1345 (11th Cir. 2002).
When a valid warrant underlies an arrest, but law-enforcement officers mistakenly arrest the wrong person because of a misidentification, a "reasonable mistake" standard governs the constitutionality of the arrest. Id. at 1345-46. To assess whether a misidentification mistake is "reasonable," we consider the totality of the circumstances concerning the arrest. Id. at 1347.
Rodriguez aptly illustrates how we have applied this test in practice. There, Joe John Rodriguez was riding as a passenger in a car that an officer pulled over for a traffic stop. Id. at 1343. During the stop, the officer asked Rodriguez for identification. Id. Rodriguez responded with more than ten pieces of identification, including his Florida driver's license, birth certificate, military-discharge papers, Social Security card, credit card, and V.A. patient-data card. Id. Upon receiving these items, the officer ran a check on Rodriguez's driver's license information. Id. at 1344. At some point, he was advised that three warrants existed for a Victor Heredia who used the alias "Joe Rodriguez." Id. Among these, a six-year-old warrant out of St. Johns County, Florida, sought Heredia for driver's license-related charges and possession of cocaine. Id.; see also id. at 1344 nn.6 & 7. After considering the warrant's identifying information for Heredia, the
We held the officer's misidentification of Rodriguez to be a "reasonable mistake," though we recognized that merely matching the name on the warrant with the arrestee's name, with nothing more, would not have been reasonable. See id. at 1346-48. First, we found that "four critical" identifiers for both men were the same: name, sex, age, and race. Id. at 1347. We also observed that "[s]ignificant other information was similar," including similar Social Security numbers, addresses in neighboring Florida towns, the same birth state, and similarities in tattoos. Id. And even with respect to the different towns for each man's address, we thought "it would not be surprising" for a person who uses an alias to also use a false address and birthdate. Id. at 1347 n.13 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). We did not find differences in eye color or in scars to be meaningful, considering the availability of contact lenses and cosmetic surgery. Id. at 1347 n.14. And we were similarly unimpressed with weight differences, since weight varies, "especially over six years." Id. In contrast, we found only one material difference in the identifying information for the two men: Rodriguez said he was 5'11", and Heredia was 5'6". Id.
But considering all the other similarities and the officer's on-the-fly assessment of Rodriguez's height, we concluded that the officer's arrest of Rodriguez was "a reasonable mistake." Id. at 1347-49. As we explained, "[t]he question is not whether the police could have done more; but whether they did just enough." Id. at 1347 n.15. And "small difference[s]" between the person arrested and the person listed on the warrant—especially ones that can easily be explained—are not enough to render an arrest on a valid warrant unreasonable. Id. at 1347-48.
Applying Rodriguez here, we conclude that Killough's mistaken arrest of Sosa on the wanted Sosa's warrant was "reasonable" within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment. We begin by recognizing that the arrest occurred during a roadside stop, which limited Killough's ability to investigate Sosa's claims of mistaken identity. See id. at 1347 n.15 ("Trials of guilt or innocence cannot be undertaken by police officers on the side of the road in the middle of the night before an officer can effect a lawful arrest pursuant to a valid warrant."); cf. Tillman v. Coley, 886 F.2d 317, 321 (11th Cir. 1989) ("This is not a case where time was of the essence in making the arrest. [The defendant] had at least three months to resolve his doubts about [the plaintiff's] identity." (citation omitted)).
Next, we look at the similarities and discrepancies between the warrant information and Sosa's descriptive information. Sosa's name and sex were the same as the wanted Sosa's. Sosa also did not allege any difference between his and the wanted Sosa's race. And while Sosa alleged that the two men's birthdates were "entirely different,"
These differences Sosa alleged were not material, viewed in the totality of the circumstances. Significantly, 26 years had passed between when Harris County issued the warrant for the wanted Sosa and when Sosa was arrested. That figures heavily into our analysis. We have previously observed that weight is "easily variable," particularly over a number of years, so that is a difference of not "much importance." Rodriguez, 280 F.3d at 1347 n.14.
We have also characterized as a difference of not "much importance," in view of the passage of time, an arrestee's lack of a scar where the wanted individual had one, since cosmetic surgery allows for changes in skin appearance. Id. Tattoos can likewise be removed using similar procedures. And here, not only had 26 years elapsed, but also Sosa did not allege the location of the tattoo, so we do not know whether the area where the tattoo was supposed to have been was even readily observable at the time of the arrest. Finally, the passage of time also renders insignificant the fact that the warrant issued out of Texas, while Sosa lived in Florida. Sosa easily could have relocated from Texas to Florida in the intervening 26 years. When we consider all these circumstances, keeping in mind that that Killough compared the warrant information to Sosa's information on the side of the road during a traffic stop, we must conclude that his error in arresting Sosa on the wanted Sosa's warrant was not unreasonable by Fourth Amendment standards.
C. The deputies are not entitled to qualified immunity on Sosa's overdetention claim
1. The individual deputies violated Sosa's Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from overdetention when they did not act for three days to investigate and follow up on information indicating that Sosa was not the wanted Sosa
We start by describing the nature of Sosa's overdetention claim. Overdetention means continued detention after entitlement to release, even though probable cause supported the charge underlying the original detention. Alcocer v. Mills, 906 F.3d 944, 953 (11th Cir. 2018).
Claims of overdetention under § 1983 can arise under the Fourth Amendment's right to be free from detention without probable cause or under the Fourteenth Amendment's substantive due-process right to be free from continued detention after it should have been known that the detainee was entitled to release. See id. at 952; see also Cannon v. Macon Cnty., 1 F.3d 1558, 1563 (11th Cir. 1993), opinion modified on reh'g on other grounds, 15 F.3d 1022 (11th Cir. 1994).
Proving a violation requires a plaintiff to establish that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to his due-process rights. Alcocer, 906 F.3d at 953. To satisfy that standard, a plaintiff must show three things: (1) the defendant's subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm in the form of continued detention even after the plaintiff had a right to be released; (2) disregard of that risk; and (3) disregard by conduct that is more than mere negligence. Id.
Cannon provides a good example of how the standard works in practice. There, a deputy encountered Mary Cannon, then known as Mary Rene Parrott, at a rest stop in Georgia. 1 F.3d at 1560. When he ran her name through the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC"), he learned that a Mary E. Mann, a.k.a. Mary E. Parrott, was wanted by Kentucky for crimes. Id. The deputy took Parrott to jail, despite her repeated protests that she was not Mann. Id. At the jail, Deputy Collins completed Parrott's arrest report. Id. He stated that he identified Parrott as Mann based on a match in Social Security numbers and birthdates, as well as on the fact that Mann used the alias Mary E. Parrott. Id. And he also testified that had the Social Security numbers and birthdates not matched, Cannon would not have been arrested and held in jail. Id.
As it turned out, though, the Social Security numbers and dates of birth did not match. Id. Not only that, but there was a four-inch height difference between the two women, one had brown eyes and the other blue, and Parrott was twelve years younger than Mann. Id. Despite these differences, the arrest report for Parrott reflected Mann's identification information. Id. Collins initially testified that he had filled out the arrest report with information he had obtained directly from Parrott. Id. But since the information in the arrest report matched the information in the NCIC report (except for the Social Security number, which matched the Social Security number of another individual listed on the NCIC report for Mann), the evidence suggested that Collins simply copied the NCIC report when he prepared the arrest report. Id. Collins also attested to a local judge that he believed Parrott to be the wanted Mann, so the judge issued a fugitive warrant for Parrott's arrest. Id. at 1561. Parrott spent a total of seven days in the Georgia jail before she was transferred to Kentucky, where she was promptly released when authorities there discovered she was not Mann. Id.
She sued Collins under § 1983, asserting a Fourteenth Amendment overdetention claim. See id. Following a trial, a jury returned a verdict for Parrott. Id. But the district court entered a judgment for Collins notwithstanding the verdict. Id. We reversed. See id. at 1566.
In applying the Fourteenth Amendment deliberate-indifference standard, we concluded, based on the facts we have described above, that "the jury finding that Collins acted with deliberate indifference to [Parrott's] due process rights [was] supported by substantial evidence." Id. at 1563. As we explained, "Collins' failure to take any steps to identify [Parrott] as the wanted fugitive was sufficient to raise a question of fact as to his deliberate indifference toward [Parrott's] due process rights." Id. at 1564. In particular, we took
We think Sosa has alleged sufficient facts to bring his case squarely within the ambit of Cannon. Like Parrott, Sosa has alleged that he repeatedly advised deputies, including those at the jail on the date of his arrest, that he was not the wanted person. Notably, he also informed them that he had previously been mistakenly arrested by the Martin County Sheriff's Department on the wanted Sosa's warrant and that he and the wanted Sosa had different birthdates, Social Security numbers, and other identifying information, including a difference in height, weight, and tattoos (the wanted Sosa had one, while Sosa did not). In fact, Sosa asserted that on that same day, he "explained this in detail to a Martin County deputy named Sanchez as well as some other Martin County jailers and employees in the booking area, who took down his information and claimed they would look into the matter."
In assessing these allegations at the motion-to-dismiss stage, we must make every reasonable inference from the alleged facts in favor of the plaintiff. And when we do that here, these allegations sufficiently establish that Sanchez and other deputies at the jail had enough information to know (1) that a substantial possibility existed that Sosa was not the wanted Sosa and (2) that they had the means readily available to rapidly confirm Sosa's identity. Yet they took no action for three days and nights while Sosa sat in jail. Finally, after Sosa spent three nights in jail, an unnamed deputy followed up on the information Sosa had provided them. And when an unidentified deputy did so by taking Sosa's fingerprints—a standard police tool long used by every U.S. police force—that deputy was easily and quickly able to confirm that Sosa was not the wanted Sosa.
Under these circumstances, Sanchez's and the other deputies' failure to act for three days and nights to verify that Sosa was the wanted Sosa is reminiscent of Collins's failure to take any steps to identify Parrott as Mann in Cannon. We said in Cannon that "Collins' failure to take any steps to identify [Parrott] as the wanted fugitive was sufficient to raise a question of fact as to his deliberate indifference toward [Parrott's] due process rights." Id. at 1564. Sanchez's and the other deputies' failure for three days and nights to undertake any steps to confirm Sosa's identity as the wanted Sosa, despite having information indicating he was not, is no less
Defendants-Appellees and the Dissent contend that Baker, 443 U.S. 137, 99 S.Ct. 2689, requires a different answer. We disagree.
In Baker, Leonard McCollan obtained a duplicate of his brother Linnie's driver's license. Id. at 140, 99 S.Ct. 2689. Leonard's
About two months after Leonard's bondsman procured a warrant out of Potter County, Texas, for the arrest of "Linnie Carl McCollan," who must have violated his bond conditions, a police officer pulled over Linnie for a traffic stop in Dallas, Texas. Id. The police officer arrested Linnie on Leonard's (in the name of Linnie) warrant. Id. Linnie was then transferred to the custody of the deputies in the county from where the warrant issued. Id. He remained there for three nights, until officials, in comparing Linnie's appearance to the file photo of the wanted person, realized that Linnie was not that man. Id. Linnie sued the county sheriff under § 1983, alleging that the county's custody of him violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. The Supreme Court disagreed. Id. at 146-47, 99 S.Ct. 2689.
First, it assumed that, "depending on what procedures the State affords defendants following arrest and prior to actual trial, mere detention pursuant to a valid warrant but in the face of repeated protests of innocence will after the lapse of a certain amount of time deprive the accused of `liberty ... without due process of law.'" Id. at 145, 99 S.Ct. 2689. But after acknowledging that, it said it was "quite certain that a detention of three days over a New Year's weekend does not and could not amount to such deprivation." Id. (emphasis added).
Our colleague reads this sentence to stand for the proposition that, no matter the circumstances, three days' detention can never amount to an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty without due process of law, as long as the person was detained on a valid warrant. We respectfully disagree for three reasons.
First, in its assumption for purposes of its analysis, the Court linked the acceptable period of detention to the "procedures the State affords defendants following arrest and prior to detention." Id. at 145, 99 S.Ct. 2689. In contrast to establishing a bright-line rule that a three-day detention can never amount to an unlawful liberty deprivation, this qualification indicates that the acceptability of any period of detention depends at least in part on process and circumstances. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 684 (9th Cir. 2001) (explaining that the language from Baker stating that "after the lapse of a certain amount of time," "depending on what procedures the State affords defendant  following arrest and prior to trial," means that "the mistaken incarceration of an individual in other circumstances may violate his or her right to due process"). In Lee, for example, after the Ninth Circuit applied these considerations to the case before it, it held that a plaintiff who had been mistakenly detained for one day on a facially valid warrant for another person with a similar name stated
Second (and relatedly), "the `holding' of a prior decision can reach only as far as the facts and circumstances presented to the Court in the case which produced that decision." United States v. Caraballo-Martinez, 866 F.3d 1233, 1244 (11th Cir. 2017); see also Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1298 (11th Cir. 2010) ("We have pointed out many times that regardless of what a court says in its opinion, the decision can hold nothing beyond the facts of that case.") (collecting cases). Baker's facts and circumstances were not broad enough to cover Sosa's situation.
In Baker, the Supreme Court explained the basis for its decision as follows:
Baker, 443 U.S. at 145-46, 99 S.Ct. 2689 (emphasis added).
Claims based on "a defense such as lack of requisite intent" or the specific type of mistaken-identity claim Linnie made differ in a material way from Sosa's claim of mistaken identity: the kinds of cases Baker described might ultimately require a jury to resolve their claims of innocence, as the quotation above expressly recognizes. After all, the state in Baker had been duped and was under the (mistaken) impression that it was, in fact, looking for Linnie McCollan because his brother had framed him. Those kinds of circumstances could understandably call for a jury to make factual findings about who actually committed the charged crime. A defense of lack of intent also presents a jury question.
But in Sosa's case, no jury even conceivably should have been necessary because it was a straight-forward case of mistaken identity: Houston County was not looking for David Sosa but for the wanted Sosa, and a simple fingerprint comparison would
Third, the Supreme Court was careful to point out that the detention period at issue in Baker consisted of "three days over a New Year's weekend." Not "three days." Not even "three days over a weekend." But "three days over a New Year's weekend." This suggests something significant about the fact that the three-day period was a long holiday weekend.
We are not the first to reach this conclusion. In Patton v. Przybylski, 822 F.2d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 1987), the Seventh Circuit construed Baker not to count holidays or weekends in identifying days of detention.
So what is different about holiday weekends than other days of the year? New Year's weekend is known, among other things, for being a period when, traditionally, less essential public services are not fully staffed,
Application of these principles here shows Baker cannot save Defendants-Appellees from the rule we announced in Cannon. Besides the overbreadth problem we described in our second point above (Baker by its reasoning does not apply when, as here, under no circumstances would the type of misidentification that happened to Sosa have required a jury trial), Sosa was detained for three days. And though two of those days fell over the weekend, it was not a holiday weekend like it was in Baker. At the motion-to-dismiss stage, there are no allegations (and, of course, no evidence) that the Martin County Sheriff's Department was so lightly staffed over the April weekend Sosa spent in jail as to make it reasonable for Sanchez or any of the other officers who told Sosa they would look into the alleged mistaken identity to take no steps to confirm Sosa's identity for three days. To the contrary, Sosa alleged that during his stay, several deputies, including Sanchez, told Sosa that they would look into the misidentification issue.
This is even more the case when we compare Sosa's circumstances to those of Linnie. In Baker, Linnie was arrested within two months of the issuance of the warrant by another county in his same state, and his brother had set him up so the state would think it was looking for Linnie. That is a very different situation from the one we have here, where Sosa was arrested 26 years after the warrant issued, in a state halfway across the country from where the warrant issued, and no one made any effort to fool the detaining officers into thinking Sosa was the wanted Sosa. A 26-year-old warrant issued five states and almost 1,400 miles away from the arrest location—particularly for an individual with such a common name as
Not only that, but to state the obvious, 2018, when Sosa was detained, was not 1972, when Linnie was detained. The technology law-enforcement officers used every day in 2018 remained entirely the stuff of science fiction in 1972.
Similarly, in 1972, comparing Linnie's appearance to a photograph of his wanted brother could not have been done from the jail (as a fingerprint comparison could have been in 2018) if the file were not located there—and presumably, it wouldn't have been.
In contrast, in 2018, fingerprinting was standard practice upon booking. See, e.g.,
In and of themselves, and as in the cases the Seventh and Ninth Circuits decided, these reasons explain why Baker cannot immunize Defendants-Appellees. But we also note that Baker involved facts distinguishable in another way as well. As Justice Blackmun explained in his concurrence (and unlike here), the deputies who left Linnie in jail for days without checking into his claims at all were not named as defendants. Baker, 443 at 148, 99 S.Ct. 2689 (Blackmun, J., concurring). Rather, the sheriff was the sole defendant. And he had not "turned a deaf ear to [Linnie's] protests." Rather, he had "checked the files and released [Linnie] as soon as [he] became aware of [Linnie's] claim." Id. Indeed, Justice Blackmun noted, "there [was] no indication that [the sheriff] was aware, or should have been aware, either of the likelihood of misidentification or of his subordinates' action[s]." Id. And of course, in the absence of personal participation or a causal connection between a supervisor's actions and the misdeeds of those she supervises, § 1983 does not allow for supervisors in their individual capacity to be held vicariously liable for the unconstitutional acts or omissions of their subordinates.
Justice Blackmun also observed that the Court's opinion did not "foreclose the possibility that a prisoner in [Linnie'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."
Consistent with these reasons for why Baker does not govern Sosa's situation, we interpreted Baker in Cannon as not precluding a jury from finding that Parrott's Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when Deputy Collins held Parrott for seven days without taking steps to identify her as the wanted fugitive, even though he could have easily and readily ruled her out just by obtaining information directly from
Sosa's case raises the same problem. He alleges that Sanchez and the other deputies at the jail did nothing to resolve the identity dispute for three days and nights while he sat in jail. And they did not act, even though Sosa repeatedly and insistently advised them of the Martin County Sheriff's Department's prior mistaken arrest of him on the same warrant and of the differences between himself and the wanted Sosa—and even though a quick, easy, and readily available comparison of Sosa's fingerprints to those of the wanted Sosa would have cleared up the entire problem immediately (as it ultimately did when an unidentified deputy finally did get around to printing Sosa and comparing his prints to the wanted Sosa's). So Baker does not allow for the conclusion that the deputies here did not violate Sosa's Fourteenth Amendment substantive-due-process right.
2. Sosa's right to be free from prolonged detention without any effort by the holding deputies to resolve doubts about his identity was clearly established by Cannon at the time of the alleged violation.
Because we conclude that Sosa sufficiently alleged that Sanchez and the other deputies at the jail violated his Fourteenth Amendment due-process right, we next consider whether that right was clearly established when the alleged violation occurred.
A right is clearly established when "the contours of the right [are] sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right." Corbitt v. Vickers, 929 F.3d 1304, 1311 (11th Cir. 2019) (cleaned up). So though the Supreme Court or we need not have held "the very action in question" to be unlawful, the unlawfulness of the action "must be apparent" under the law in existence at the time of the violation. Id. at 1312 (cleaned up).
We have recognized three ways in which a plaintiff can show that a constitutional right was clearly established at the time of the violation. Keating v. City of Miami, 598 F.3d 753, 766 (11th Cir. 2010). First, a plaintiff can point to "a materially similar" precedent. Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). Second, he can turn to "a broader, clearly established principle [that] should control the novel facts" of the case under review. Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). Or third, he can demonstrate that the officer's conduct "so obviously violates the Constitution
Here, "a broader, clearly established principle ... control[s] the novel facts." See id. As we have noted, Cannon held that the deputy's "failure [there] to take any steps to identify [the detained person] as the wanted fugitive was sufficient to raise a question of fact as to his deliberate indifference toward [the detained plaintiff's] due process rights." Cannon, 1 F.3d at 1564. Sosa has alleged the same situation here: despite knowing of the significant possibility that Sosa was not the wanted Sosa, Sanchez and other deputies took no action confirm Sosa's identity. So for three days and nights, Sosa remained in jail until finally, a different, unidentified deputy took Sosa's fingerprints and checked them against those of the wanted Sosa.
Based on Cannon, Sanchez and the other deputies who failed to take any steps to identify Sosa as the wanted Sosa were on notice that completely shirking their responsibilities —over a period of three days—while a potentially misidentified, innocent person was imprisoned could constitute deliberate indifference and violate the detainee's Fourteenth Amendment substantive due-process rights.
Because Cannon made it clear that an officer's "failure to take any steps to identify" a detainee as the target of warrant is unconstitutional, Deputy Sanchez and the other deputies at the jail are not entitled to qualified immunity. 1 F.3d at 1564. For these reasons, we reverse the district court's dismissal of Sosa's overdetention claim and remand for further proceedings.
Finally, we consider Sosa's Fourteenth Amendment substantive-due-process Monell claim against Martin County and the Sheriff. Under Monell, a plaintiff may maintain a § 1983 action against a municipal government when it has a policy, custom, or practice that causes a constitutional injury. 436 U.S. at 690-91, 98 S.Ct. 2018. But a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a theory of vicarious liability. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997).
To succeed on a Monell claim, a plaintiff must prove that (1) something that qualifies as an official local-government policy (2) was the "moving force" that "actually caused" (3) the plaintiff's
An official local-government policy can be a decision by a municipality's lawmaking body, an act by a policymaking official, or a municipal custom—that is, a "practice so persistent and widespread as to practically have the force of law." Connick, 563 U.S. at 61, 131 S.Ct. 1350. Besides these things, a municipality's decision not to train employees on their legal duty not to violate citizens' rights can also constitute an official government policy subjecting the municipality to liability under § 1983. Id.; see also Lewis v. City of W. Palm Beach, 561 F.3d 1288, 1293 (11th Cir. 2009). But to qualify as a policy, the municipality's failure to train must "evidence a deliberate indifference to the rights of its inhabitants." Lewis, 561 F.3d at 1293 (citation omitted).
Establishing deliberate indifference requires the plaintiff to "present some evidence that the municipality knew of a need to train and/or supervise in a particular area and ... made a deliberate choice not to take any action." Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). A plaintiff may do this by pointing to evidence that municipal policymakers "are on actual or constructive notice that a particular omission in their training program causes city employees to violate citizens' constitutional rights[.]" Connick, 563 U.S. at 61, 131 S.Ct. 1350.
Generally, to satisfy this notice requirement, a plaintiff must prove a pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees. Id. at 62, 131 S.Ct. 1350. But "in a narrow range of circumstances," a plaintiff may avoid the need to show a pattern of similar violations to prove deliberate indifference. Id. at 63, 131 S.Ct. 1350 (citation omitted). That is so when "the unconstitutional consequences of failing to train [are] ... patently obvious," id. at 64, 131 S.Ct. 1350, meaning that a high likelihood exists that the situation will recur frequently and that the officer's lack of specific tools to respond to that situation will predictably violate citizens' constitutional rights, Brown, 520 U.S. at 409, 117 S.Ct. 1382. The Supreme Court has identified but a single example of this situation: a municipality's failure to train officers about the constitutional limits on the use of deadly force though arming the officers with guns and expecting to use them in the course of their duties. See Connick, 563 U.S. at 63, 131 S.Ct. 1350; see also City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 390 n.10, 109 S.Ct. 1197, 103 L.Ed.2d 412 (1989).
As for Monell's causation prong, when it comes to a failure-to-train claim, the plaintiff must establish that a hypothetically well-trained officer would have acted in a way that would have prevented the injury to the plaintiff. See City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 391, 109 S.Ct. 1197.
Sosa argues that two of the County's and Sheriff's alleged "policies" caused him constitutional injury: (1) the failure to train deputies to properly verify that an individual arrested based on an outstanding warrant is, in fact, the subject of that warrant, and (2) the lack of a policy or custom of keeping records to identify those who have previously been arrested because of misidentification on outstanding charges for another person with the same or similar name.
Here, the first alleged policy Sosa challenges —the Sheriff and Martin County's
Martin County also cannot be liable for the lack of action by its deputies at the jail who failed to correctly identify Sosa. That is so because Sosa has failed to sufficiently allege a pattern of similar constitutional violations that would have put Martin County on notice of its need to train its deputies to correctly identify the target of a warrant. Indeed, the only constitutional violation Sosa alleges in his First Amended Complaint is the conduct that gave rise to this case. But "contemporaneous... conduct cannot establish a pattern of violations that would provide notice to [a municipality] and the opportunity to conform to constitutional dictates." Connick, 563 U.S. at 63 n.7, 131 S.Ct. 1350 (cleaned up); Knight through Kerr v. Miami-Dade Cnty., 856 F.3d 795, 820 (11th Cir. 2017) (holding that a plaintiff cannot show a pattern of constitutional violations when its only evidence "is this case itself"). As a result, Sosa has failed to allege enough facts to make out a plausible Monell claim on this first alleged policy.
So we turn to Sosa's second alleged policy: the failure to keep records so that those who have previously been misidentified as a wanted person will not be so misidentified again on the same warrant. This alleged policy was not passed by the local government. Nor does the need for keeping a records system to ensure a person is not mistakenly arrested twice on the same warrant for someone else with the same or similar name rise to the level of obviousness that the Supreme Court's example of the need to train officers with guns does.
So we consider whether Sosa sufficiently alleged a pattern of similar constitutional violations that should have put Martin County on notice that its deputies were regularly violating people's rights by rearresting them on the same outstanding warrant because of a misidentification error. For purposes of our analysis, we assume a meaningful difference between the duty of an individual deputy to avoid unreasonably mistakenly arresting a person as a wanted person and the duty of a sheriff's department as an entity to prevent the unreasonably mistaken rearrests of a person on a wanted person's warrant. See Barnett, 956 F.3d at 1301 (explaining that "municipal liability can exist if a jury finds that a constitutional injury is due to a municipal policy, custom, or practice," even if "no officer is individually liable for the violation").
But even assuming that a county may inflict constitutional injury on a person by mistakenly arresting him a second time or more on the same warrant because of a misidentification, the district court did not err in dismissing Sosa's Monell claim. Sosa did not allege enough facts to show that the Sheriff's Department had a pattern of rearresting the wrong person on a warrant because of mistaken identity based on the arrestee's name.
True, Sosa himself was rearrested once. But as to the County's notice at the time of Sosa's rearrest, which is what we must evaluate, Sosa alleges only that "[u]pon information and belief Martin County has arrested many innocent individual[s] because
We affirm the district court's dismissal of Sosa's Fourth Amendment and Monell claims, and we reverse the district court's dismissal of Sosa's Fourteenth Amendment overdetention claim. We remand the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
LUCK, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
The district court dismissed David Sosa's Fourth Amendment false arrest claim against Deputy Killough, his Fourteenth Amendment overdetention claim against Deputy Sanchez, and his
Sosa has not alleged a violation of his due process rights under
Baker v. McCollan
Then, the real Linnie ran a red light in another county.
Linnie sued the sheriff for damages under the Fourteenth Amendment and section 1983,
"[I]t is necessary," the Court began, "to isolate the precise constitutional violation with which [the defendant] is charged."
"The Constitution does not guarantee that only the guilty will be arrested," the Court continued, and "[t]he Fourteenth Amendment does not protect against all deprivations of liberty."
Given the Supreme Court's certainty, I think we are bound to conclude that Sosa's three-day detention on a facially valid warrant, despite his repeated claims of mistaken identity, did not and could not amount to a deprivation of his liberty without due process. Sosa, like Linnie, was arrested on a facially valid warrant. Sosa, like Linnie, repeatedly protested his innocence. Sosa's jailer, like Linnie's sheriff, didn't investigate the mistaken identity claim for three days. And Sosa's jailer, like Linnie's sheriff, could easily have determined that he had the wrong person in custody by doing a simple identification match. Taken together, the Supreme Court concluded that these facts did not allege a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The majority opinion's attempts to distinguish
Baker are unavailing
The majority opinion gives six reasons why
First, the majority opinion argues that
The crux of
So too here. Sosa was arrested on a valid warrant and there is no allegation that the state abridged his right to a speedy trial in any way. Like Linnie's claim, Sosa's claim that law enforcement didn't "investigate independently [his]
In any event, Linnie's factual innocence was just as straightforward as Sosa's. The sheriff in
Second, the majority opinion contends that
Instead, the Supreme Court held: "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 to investigate independently every claim of innocence, whether the claim is based on mistaken identity or a defense such as lack of requisite intent."
And nothing in
Third, the majority opinion maintains that the warrant in this case was twenty-six years old and called for the arrest of a man with "such a common name," David Sosa. Majority Op. at 1272. The differences in the age and name on the warrant "raise more identity questions" than in
Also, the fact that the warrant was an old one raises fewer, and not more, questions about Sosa's identity. In
Fourth, the majority opinion argues that
The majority opinion's focus on progress in fingerprint technology confuses best police practices with the demands of due process. It is certainly good policy for the police to use the most current technology to investigate promptly a detainee's mistaken-identity claim. A legislature could (and maybe should) mandate that they do so by statute. But, as
The majority opinion also says that, in 1972, it would have taken some time—"a few days"—for the sheriff to hunt down Linnie's case file, wherever it was, which justified the delay in identifying him. Majority Op. at 1273-74. But, as the majority opinion implicitly acknowledges, the
Fifth, the majority opinion asserts that
But Justice Blackmun's concurring opinion does not limit or modify
Regardless, Linnie did allege in
And the sheriff's intent or deliberate indifference did not affect the
Sosa's case is not squarely within the ambit of
Cannon v. Macon County
The majority opinion also says that Sosa has alleged a constitutional violation because his case is squarely within the ambit of
There, Mary Parrott and her family spent the night at a rest area in Georgia waiting for local relatives to come and lend them some money.
Deputy Collins took over at the jail.
Because the arrest report now matched the "hit" from Kentucky, Deputy Collins held Parrott in the jail and swore out an affidavit for a fugitive warrant saying that Parrott was Mary Mann.
There are two key differences that take Sosa's case out of the ambit of
The second key difference in
Unlike Parrott, Linnie and Sosa were both only held for three days (and they were held on a facially valid warrant). "In
The majority opinion rightly reminds us that a holding can reach no further than the facts and circumstances presented to the court. Majority Op. at 1269. For that reason,
* * * *