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Doyle v. City of Medford

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

August 31, 2017

RONALD DOYLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MEDFORD; PAUL MELLGREN; PATRICK DENNIS Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Hon. Michael McShane United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 16. The Court heard oral argument on July 28, 2017. ECF No. 29. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant City of Medford is an Oregon municipality.[1] Defendants Paul Mellgren (“Mellgren”) and Patrick Dennis (“Dennis”) are police officers employed by the Medford Police Department.

         I. The Initial Stop

         At approximately 11:00 p.m. on December 5, 2014, Plaintiff Ronald Doyle left a bar in downtown Medford. Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 2; Ex. 24, at 2. Officer Paul Mellgren observed Doyle making an improper turn while leaving the bar's parking lot and initiated a traffic stop. Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 2; Ex. 24, at 5. When Mellgren approached Doyle's vehicle, he detected a strong odor of alcohol. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 6. Mellgren also observed that Doyle had watery, bloodshot eyes. Burrows Decl. Ex. 17; Ex. 24, at 13. During the encounter, Mellgren observed that Doyle spoke with a slight slur.[2] Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 6. Doyle denied having consumed any alcohol. Burrows Decl. Ex. 24, at 13. Mellgren asked Doyle to perform Field Sobriety Tests (“FSTs”), but Doyle declined. Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 2-3; Ex. 24, at 29. At this point, Mellgren believed that Doyle was impaired by alcohol. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 4. Mellgren did not suspect that Doyle was under the influence of drugs during the initial encounter. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 4.

         During the encounter, Doyle stated repeatedly that he was the retired city attorney for Medford. Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 2-3. Doyle told Mellgren that he believed the stop was unlawful and that Mellgren was proceeding inappropriately with the investigation. Burrows Decl. Ex. 24, at 14.

         Mellgren placed Doyle under arrest for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (“DUII”) and ordered Doyle to get out of the vehicle. Doyle argued with Mellgren for some time about the lawfulness of the stop and Mellgren had to repeat that Doyle was under arrest several times. Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 3; Ex. 24, at 43-44. Doyle continued to refuse to get out of his vehicle, despite Mellgren's repeated orders. Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 3. Before finally exiting the vehicle, Doyle spent some time rummaging for his jacket. Doyle disregarded Mellgren's repeated orders to leave the jacket behind and did not exit the vehicle until he had the jacket in hand. Burrows Decl. Ex. 24, at 18-19. Mellgren observed Doyle moved slowly while exiting the vehicle. Burrows Decl. Ex. 24, at 67. Mellgren has consistently testified that, at this point in the encounter, he believed that Doyle was impaired by alcohol. See, e.g., Burrows Decl. Ex. 24, at 20, 41.

         Mellgren placed Doyle in handcuffs and called for the assistance of a second officer to transport Doyle.[3] After he was placed in handcuffs, Doyle said that he didn't want to go to jail and asked if there was anything he could do for Mellgren to “make this right.” Mellgren Decl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 19 (dashboard-mounted audio and video or “MAV”) 23:09:05.

         A short while later, MPD Officer James Barringer arrived and placed Doyle into his patrol car for transport to the Moore Center (for the sake of clarity, the Court will follow the practice of the parties and refer to the Moore Center as “Detox”). Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 3. Barringer also observed that Doyle smelled strongly of alcohol. Mitton Decl. Ex. 5, at 2; Burrows Decl. Ex. 26, at 3.

         II. Detox and the Application for the Search Warrant

         At Detox, Doyle agreed to provide a breath sample for the Intoxilyzer 8000. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 7-8. His first sample returned blood alcohol content (“BAC”) of 0.017 and his second sample returned a result of 0.015. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 8; Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 11.

         A low BAC result will not automatically end a DUII investigation.[4] Mitton Decl. Ex. 4, at 11-12. Nor does a low BAC result necessarily rule out alcohol intoxication. Mitton Decl. Ex. 4, at 14 (describing the additive effects of alcohol and other substances). In a typical DUII investigation, if a person is arrested for DUII based on probable cause and his or her breath sample shows a BAC of less than 0.08, a Drug Recognition Expert (“DRE”) will be called to perform an evaluation of the individual. Mitton Decl. Ex. 3, at 2; Ex. 4, at 11-12. The DRE attempts to assess whether the individual is actually impaired and, if so, whether he or she is impaired by something other than alcohol. Mitton Decl. Ex. 3, at 2. If the individual refuses to submit to a DRE evaluation, or no DRE is available, the police will apply for a search warrant for a urine sample. Mitton Decl. Ex. 4, at 12-13. Urine testing is requested only if the police suspect that the individual is impaired by something other than alcohol, or by the interaction of alcohol and another substance. Mitton Decl. Ex. 4, at 13-14. Certain drugs will be detected only by special testing, and will not be detected by the general urinalysis screening performed by the Oregon State Police lab. Mitton Decl. Ex. 4, at 13-14; Ex. 9.

         In Doyle's case, Mellgren testified that he was unable to reconcile his observations at the roadside with the low BAC result.[5] Burrows Decl. Ex. 24, at 42, 80. Mellgren called his supervising police sergeant and informed him that Doyle's breath sample was below 0.08 and that the result was inconsistent with Mellgren's roadside observations. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 9. Mellgren requested the assistance of a DRE. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 9. The sergeant instructed Mellgren to call the DRE directly and to proceed with the investigation. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 9. Mellgren contacted the on-duty DRE, who instructed Mellgren to ask Doyle if he would submit to a DRE examination and/or provide a urine sample. Burrows Decl. Ex. 7, at 16; Ex. 12, at 3. Doyle declined both requests. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 9; Ex. 2, at 10.

         During his time at Detox, Doyle demanded that Mellgren call the chief of police, who Doyle believed would vouch for his character. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 6-7, 12; Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 3. Doyle testified that he believed that the chief of police would personally intervene and mediate some sort of resolution to Doyle's detention. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 7, 12. Doyle also discussed calling Mellgren's father, another former employee of the City of Medford, but opted against doing so. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 6; Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 3.

         Officer Patrick Dennis was at Detox on an unrelated call. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 2. During his time at Detox, Dennis observed that, while Doyle was not aggressive, he was argumentative, “erratic, ” and “just had bizarre behavior.” Burrows Decl. Ex. 25, at 9-10, 14-15. Dennis is qualified as a DRE and Mellgren spoke to him about his investigation of Doyle. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 2; Ex. 3, at 4. Mellgren described his roadside observations to Dennis and noted the low BAC result. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 2. Mellgren expressed the view that “everything at that point just didn't make sense. It wasn't adding up.” Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 2. Dennis spoke with Doyle, although he did not perform a DRE examination, nor did he explicitly express an opinion as to whether or not Doyle was under the influence of drugs. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 2; Ex. 3, at 5-7. Dennis advised Mellgren of the existence of categories of fast- dissipating drugs, such as inhalants, which might explain a sudden change in observable levels of impairment, as well as a low BAC. Mitton Decl. Ex. 3, at 8; Burrows Decl. Ex. 25, at 17. Based on the information Mellgren received from Dennis, Mellgren came to believe that Doyle had been under the influence of drugs. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 3-4, 12; Burrows Decl. Ex. 24, at 37, 41. Mellgren asked Dennis if he should seek a search warrant and Dennis replied “Absolutely.” Mitton Decl. Ex. 3, at 5, 10.

         Mellgren prepared a search warrant affidavit, which he submitted telephonically to a Jackson County Circuit Court judge. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 10. In his application, Mellgren described the smell of alcohol on Doyle's breath, his watery, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and slow movements, as well as Doyle's low BAC result and refusal to perform FSTs or submit to a DRE examination. Mitton Decl. Ex. 7, at 4. Mellgren raised the possibility of fast-dissipating controlled substances or inhalants and stated that he had probable cause to believe that evidence of controlled substances or inhalant use would be found in Doyle's urine. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 13; Ex. 7, at 4. Mellgren requested that the judge issue a search warrant for the collection of urine, on the basis that Mellgren had probable cause to believe that it would reveal evidence of the crime of DUII. Mitton Decl. Ex. 7, at 4-5. The judge found that probable cause did exist and issued a warrant for the collection of the urine sample. Mitton Decl. Ex. 6; Ex. 7, at 5-6.

         When presented with the search warrant, Doyle initially refused to provide a urine sample. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 11; Ex. 2, at 14. Mellgren and Dennis transported Doyle to the hospital so that the urine sample could be collected by catheter. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 13-14; Ex. 2, at 14. Doyle ultimately agreed to provide the urine sample and no catheter was necessary. Mitton Decl. Ex. 1, at 15; Ex. 2, at 14. Mellgren then issued citations for misdemeanor DUII, refusing to provide a urine sample, and improper right turn. Burrows Decl. Ex. 1-3. Doyle was lodged at the jail and released the following morning. Burrows Decl. Ex. 12, at 1.

         Doyle's urine sample was tested by the Oregon State Police laboratory and yielded a positive result for marijuana metabolites. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 16; Ex. 9. Doyle's case was submitted to the Jackson County District Attorney's Office, which declined to proceed with charges. Burrows Decl. Ex. 4.

         III. The DMV Hearing

         Doyle's driver's license was suspended by the DMV based on Doyle's refusal to provide a urine sample. Doyle challenged the suspension and a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on December 24, 2014. Burrows Decl. Ex. 5.

         Mellgren appeared at the administrative hearing and testified without the assistance of counsel. Mitton Decl. Ex. 2, at 17. Mellgren testified that when he arrested Doyle, he believed Doyle to be under the influence of alcohol, rather than drugs, and that this belief persisted for at least some of the time Doyle was at Detox. Mitton Decl. Ex. 10, at 4. Mellgren also testified that, at the time he initially asked Doyle to provide a urine sample or submit to a DRE exam, he did not believe Doyle was under the influence of a controlled substance or inhalant.[6] Mitton Decl. Ex. 10, at 2-3; Burrows Decl. Ex. 7, at 29. Mellgren stated that once Doyle's breath sample showed a low BAC, he had no choice but to continue with the investigation because he was unable to reconcile his roadside observation of impairment with the low BAC result. Mitton Decl. Ex. 10, at 3; Burrows Decl. Ex. 7, at 18-19.

         The ALJ determined that Mellgren lacked probable cause to arrest Doyle and reversed the suspension of Doyle's driver's license.[7] Burrows Decl. Ex. 8, at 3-4.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Wash. Mut. Inc. v. United States, 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party must show the absence of a dispute as to a material fact. Rivera v. Philip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1146 (9th Cir. 2005). In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and show there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact for trial. Id. “This burden is not a light one. . . . The non-moving party must do more than show there is some ‘metaphysical doubt' as to the material facts at issue.” In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).

         A dispute as to a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Villiarmo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Sluimer v. Verity, Inc., 606 F.3d 584, 587 (9th Cir. 2010). “Summary judgment cannot be granted where contrary inferences may be drawn from the evidence as to material issues.” Easter v. Am. W. Fin., 381 F.3d 948, 957 (9th Cir. 2004). A “mere disagreement or the bald assertion that a genuine issue of material fact exists” is not sufficient to preclude the grant of summary judgment. Harper v. Wallingford, 877 F.2d 728, 731 (9th Cir. 1989). When the non-moving party's claims are factually implausible, that party must “come forward with more persuasive evidence than otherwise would be necessary[.]” LVRC Holdings, LLC v. Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127, 1137 (9th Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The substantive law governing a claim or defense determines whether a fact is material. Miller v. Glenn Miller Prod., Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 987 (9th Cir. 2006). If the resolution of a factual dispute would not affect the outcome of the claim, the court may grant summary judgment. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         Doyle brings claims against Mellgren and Dennis for false arrest and false statements to a judicial officer, along with state law claims for assault, battery, and false imprisonment. Doyle has also brought Monell claims against the City of Medford based on number of its policies, which Doyle asserts are unlawful. Defendants have moved for summary judgment.

         Doyle also initially brought claims against Mellgren and Dennis for excessive use of force, based on the use of handcuffs, as well as a Monell claim against the City of Medford for its handcuff policies. Doyle has conceded these claims and moves to dismiss them in his Response. The Court accepts Doyle's concession and all claims related to excessive force or the City of Medford's handcuff policy are dismissed.

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “provides a federal cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of his federal rights.” Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999). To maintain a claim under § 1983, “a plaintiff must both (1) allege the deprivation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or statutory law, and (2) allege that the deprivation was ...


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