Alexander v. City of Round Rock, No. 16-50839 (5th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against law enforcement officers and the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights after officers pulled him over for suspicious activity and subsequently arrested him for resisting a search. The district court granted the officers' motion to dismiss all claims. The court could not conclude as a matter of law that plaintiff failed to state a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful detention. In this case, the most the officer could have observed was a man (plaintiff) briefly looking around a vehicle in the parking lot, turning to get into a car, noticing a police car, continuing to get into the car, and beginning to drive further into the parking lot. This was not a "headlong flight," nor "evasive" behavior. The court also concluded that the officers did not have probable cause to arrest plaintiff for resisting a search under Texas law, and because no objectively reasonable officer would conclude that such probable cause did exist, the court held that plaintiff has stated a Fourth Amendment claim; and the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity from that claim at the motion to dismiss stage. The court concluded, however, that plaintiff did not state a valid claim for retaliation under either the First or Fifth Amendments. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiff's alleged injuries—though perhaps not sufficient on their own to satisfy the de minimis requirement—were enough to support a claim for excessive force at the motion to dismiss stage. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.