Wingate v. Fulford, No. 19-1700 (4th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Virginia common law, challenging his stop, arrest, and subsequent prosecution. The district court denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted the officers' motion for summary judgment on each of plaintiff's claims.
The Fourth Circuit held that, when Deputy Fulford told plaintiff that he was not free to leave until he identified himself, this unambiguous restraint on plaintiff's liberty converted the previously voluntary encounter into a compelled detention—an investigatory stop. Furthermore, the district court erred in finding that Fulford's stop was supported by reasonable and particularized suspicion. In this case, it is not enough that Fulford first began to suspect criminal activity when a man that he intended to help approached him in dark clothing. The court also held that plaintiff's arrest was likewise unlawful where Stafford County Ordinance 17–7(c), which makes it a crime for any person at a public place or place open to the public to refuse to identify himself at the request of a uniformed law-enforcement officer if the surrounding circumstances are such as to indicate to a reasonable man that the public safety requires such identification, is unconstitutional when applied outside the context of an investigatory stop.
The court further held that Fulford is not entitled to qualified immunity for his unconstitutional investigatory stop, but the officers are entitled to qualified immunity for their unlawful arrest under Stafford County Ordinance 17–7(c). Until today, the court explained that no federal court has prescribed the constitutional limits of section 17-7(c)'s application and thus this right was not clearly established at the time of plaintiff's arrest. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the officers on plaintiff's claims under the Virginia common law. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on February 5, 2021.