United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
THAI CANNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Daniel Lee Macias (“Macias”), proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis, has filed this suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants for violating
his Fourth Amendment rights. ECF Doc. 1. Defendants
Investigator Cameron Johnson and Deputy Gaither have filed a
Motion to Dismiss and Request for Judicial Notice (ECF Doc.
The matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate
Judge for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636 and N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(C). Upon consideration
of the parties' written submissions, including
Macias's response (ECF Doc. 20), and the relevant law,
the undersigned recommends that the Motion to Dismiss be
MACIAS'S FOURTH AMENDMENT CLAIMS
is a prisoner currently confined at Suwannee Correctional
Institution. At the time he initiated this action, Macias was
a pretrial detainee at the Walton County Jail. The Defendants
are employees of the Walton County Sheriff's Office
(“WCSO”). Macias's complaint sets forth the
factual allegations that follow, the truth of which are
accepted for purposes of determining Defendants' motion
November 13, 2016, two (2) WCSO deputies, including Defendant
Early, arrived at a residence shared by Macias, his
girlfriend, Haley Page (“Page”), and Joseph
Beeler (“Beeler”) to execute a misdemeanor arrest
warrant on Beeler. The deputies believed that Beeler was
located inside the residence. Page answered the door and did
not give consent for the deputies to enter; nonetheless,
Early forcibly entered the residence. Macias says no exigent
circumstances justified immediate entry, and the deputies did
not have a valid search warrant or probable cause to believe
illegal activity was taking place.
Gaither then arrived at the residence and ordered Macias to
present photo identification. Macias asserts Gaither lacked
the reasonable suspicion necessary for the detention and had
no immediate need for Macias to provide proof of identity.
Deputy Gaither then followed Macias for “officer
safety” to his bedroom to retrieve the identification.
ECF Doc. 1 at 6.
same day, Defendant Investigator Johnson executed an
affidavit of probable cause for a search warrant of the
residence. ECF Doc. 20 at 7. With the search warrant in hand,
the deputies seized items from Macias's room, including
various digital media storage devices. Macias contends the
seized digital medial storage devices “were not
immediately identifiable as contraband.” ECF Doc. 1 at
result of the items obtained during the search, Macias was
charged with felony possession and several drug related
offenses. See State of Florida v. Macias, Case No.
16-CF-868, ECF Doc. 17-2 at 2. A subsequent computer forensic
analysis of the digital devices seized during the search also
revealed images of child pornography. Thus, Macias was
separately arrested and charged with child pornography
related offenses. See State of Florida v. Macias,
Case No. 17-CF-470, ECF Doc. 17-3 at 2. Macias filed a motion
to suppress the evidence obtained from the search warrant in
both state court cases and the motion was
granted. ECF Doc. 1 at 9-16. The charges were also
subsequently dismissed. See Dockets, ECF Doc. 17-2
at 2-6 and 17-3 at 2-4.
on the foregoing, Macias alleges Defendants violated the
Fourth Amendment, as well as sections Four, Nine, Twelve, and
Twenty-Three of Article 1 of the Florida Constitution.
Specifically, Macias takes issue with Early's initial
entry into the residence; Gaither's subsequent detention
of him and entry into Macias's bedroom; and Johnson's
probable cause affidavit for the search
warrant. As relief, Macias seeks damages for
defamation of character and mental anguish. He also asks that
the WCSO publicly recant their statements regarding his
arrest. The WCSO, however, is not a party to this action.
considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the Court reads a plaintiff's pro se allegations
in a liberal fashion, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520-21 (1972), and accepts “[a]ll well-pleaded
facts in plaintiff's complaint and all reasonable
inferences drawn from those facts . . . as true.”
McGinley v. Houston, 361 F.3d 1328, 1330
(11th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). “There
are a few exceptions to this rule, such as where the facts
alleged are internally inconsistent or where they run counter
to facts of which the court can take judicial notice.”
Ellen S. v. Fla. Bd. of Bar Exam'rs, 859 F.Supp.
1489, 1492 (S.D. Fla. 1994) (citation omitted). Further, mere
“labels and conclusions” are not accepted as
true. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286
(1986)) (noting courts “are not bound to accept as true
a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).
Supreme Court reiterated in Iqbal, although Rule 8
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require
detailed factual allegations, it does demand “more than
an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). A complaint must state a plausible claim for
relief, and “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The mere
possibility the defendant acted unlawfully is insufficient to
survive dismissal for failure to state a claim. Id.
The complaint must include “[f]actual allegations . . .
[sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, or,
“nudge the claim across the line from conceivable
to plausible . . . .” Id. at 570. Moreover,
“courts may infer from the factual allegations in the
complaint ‘obvious alternative explanations,' which
suggest lawful conduct rather than unlawful conduct the
plaintiff would ask the court to infer.” Am. Dental
Ass'n v. Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th
Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682).
REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE
discussing the merits of the motion to dismiss, the Court
will address the request for judicial notice. The Defendants
ask that the Court take judicial notice of the filings and
dockets for Beeler's state court case, Case No.
16000393CTAXMX and Macias's state court cases: Case No.
16-CF-868, and No. 17-CF-470. The undersigned finds that
judicial notice is appropriate. See Fed. R. Evid.
201; see e.g., United States v. Berrojo, 628 F.3d
368, 369 (5th Cir. 1980) (“The doctrine of
judicial notice permits a judge to consider a generally
accepted or readily verified fact as proved without requiring
evidence to establish it.”). The undersigned also finds
that it is appropriate for the Court to consider the dockets,
submissions and filings in those state court cases in
determining this motion to dismiss. See Horsley v.
Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002)
(“a document attached to a motion to dismiss may be
considered by the court without converting the motion into
one for summary judgment only if the attached document is:
(1) central to the plaintiff's claim; and (2) undisputed.
‘Undisputed' in this context means that the
authenticity of the document is not challenged.”).
42 U.S.C. §1983, an individual who has been deprived of
a right guaranteed to him by the Constitution or laws of the
United States under color of state law, has a right to seek
appropriate relief in a United States District Court. The
Fourth Amendment provides “the right of the people to
be secure in their persons ... against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation....” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Although a
violation of the Fourth Amendment can form the basis of a
§ 1983 action, Defendants argue that they are immune
from liability. For the reasons set forth below, the
Macias sues the Defendants in their individual capacities,
his claims are subject to the doctrine of qualified immunity.
To receive qualified immunity, the public officials,
“must first prove that [they were] acting within the
scope of [their] discretionary authority when the allegedly
wrongful acts occurred.” Lee v. Ferraro, 284
F.3d 1188, 1194 (11th Cir. 2002) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Here, Macias does not dispute the
Defendants were acting within the scope of their
discretionary authority and under color of law at all
material times. ECF Doc. 1 at 5.
Supreme Court has established a 2-pronged test for evaluating
a claim of qualified immunity: (1) whether a constitutional
right has been violated on the facts alleged; and (2) whether
the right was “clearly established.” Saucier
v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001). The Court may exercise its
sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs should
be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the
particular case at hand. Pearson v. Callahan, 555
U.S. 223, 236 (2009). The Court may grant qualified immunity
if the Plaintiff fails to carry his burden on either prong.
See, e.g., Id. at 242-44 (evaluating only
Saucier's second prong and holding that law
enforcement officers were entitled to qualified immunity
because the unlawfulness of their conduct was not clearly
Fourth Amendment cases an officer is entitled to qualified
immunity if he had arguable probable cause for his conduct
i.e., for the search, seizure or arrest. See Case v.
Eslinger, 555 F.3d 1317, 1327 (11th Cir.
2009). Arguable probable cause exists where reasonable
officers possessing the same knowledge and in the same
circumstances could have believed probable cause existed to
arrest; even if ultimately that belief was mistaken. Id.;
Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 878 (11th Cir.
2003). “Probable cause is defined in terms of facts and
circumstances sufficient to ...