Harlin had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, who was
subsequently charged with drug possession. Informing the jury
that drug paraphernalia was later found in Plaintiff's residence
could lead the jury to weigh that fact in making a determination
that must, as a matter of law, focus on the arresting officer's
state of knowledge at the time of the arrest. Such consideration
would clearly be unfairly prejudicial to the Plaintiff.
Defendants also assert that the evidence should be admitted
because it was recovered in connection with a lawful search and
seizure. See Dallas II, 2000 WL 1092986 at *8. The lawfulness
of the seizure does not render the evidence admissible on an
issue with respect to which it is irrelevant and lacking in
Admissibility under Rule 404(b) to show absence of mistake
Defendants next assert that evidence regarding the drug
paraphernalia is admissible in connection with Plaintiff's false
arrest claim under Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Defendants argue that, because Plaintiff claims that his arrest
"was entirely false" and "that the arrest was a mistake,"
evidence of drug paraphernalia found in his apartment is
admissible to show absence of "mistake." (Defts.' Memo at 14-15.)
Rule 404(b) precludes the admission of evidence of other crimes,
wrongs, or acts to prove the character of a person to show action
in conformity therewith, but allows its admission for purposes
such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan,
knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident.
Defendants' argument stands Rule 404(b) on its head. They seek
to use the subsequently-discovered evidence to show that it was
likely, at the time of the arrest, that Plaintiff possessed drugs
and that defendant Harlin therefore was not mistaken about that
likelihood when Plaintiff was arrested. Because the existence of
probable cause depends on the information, facts and
circumstances available to the arresting officer at the time of
arrest, evidence discovered after the arrest is not admissible
with respect to the question of whether there was probable cause.
Defendants cannot get around the relevance requirement by arguing
that their purpose in seeking to admit the evidence is to show
absence of mistake, when the probable cause question is the
Where there is no question of intent, evidence cannot be
admitted to show absence of mistake. See Hynes v. Coughlin,
79 F.3d 285, 290-91 (2d Cir. 1996). Here, Harlin's intent is not in
question: clearly, he intended to arrest Plaintiff. Because there
is no question with regard to Harlin's intent in arresting
Plaintiff, evidence of subsequently discovered alleged drug
paraphernalia cannot be admitted to show absence of mistake. See
id. (holding that "where there is no tenable basis for
contending that there was an issue such as intent or knowledge,
it is error to admit [the evidence proffered to show absence of
mistake]"). Furthermore, a cause of action for false arrest is
not premised on a generalized notion that an officer "made a
mistake" in arresting a person. Rather, the gravamen of the cause
of action is absence of legal authority to make the challenged
arrest. See BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 104 (7th ed. 1999). There is
no basis in Rule 404(b) for the admission of evidence of Dallas'
alleged possession of drug paraphernalia to show Harlin's lack of
mistake in arresting him.
Admissibility for impeachment purposes
Defendants, positing that Plaintiff may testify that he was not
drug activity, also argue that testimony regarding the alleged
drug paraphernalia should be permitted for impeachment purposes.
It would be premature to rule on Defendants' request in advance
of an actual proffer of testimony by Plaintiff. As the court
noted in Giles v. Rhodes, a decision relied upon by Defendants,
"[t]o make a ruling now would require [the Court] to speculate as
to the nature of the testimony that might open the door to the
proper admission of this evidence. . . ." No. 94 Civ. 6385, 2000
WL 1425046 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 27, 2000). The Court will defer
consideration of any impeachment proffer, and any additional
evidentiary issues that may be implicated by such proffer, to the
time of trial.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion to preclude
Defendants' introduction of evidence regarding the alleged drug
paraphernalia is granted, except to the extent such motion
relates to the use of such evidence for impeachment purposes (as
to which issue decision is reserved for trial).
Plaintiff's prior felony convictions include: (1) one count of
second degree burglary and one count of third degree burglary in
1987 (youthful offender); and (2) one count of second degree
burglary in 1988, for which Plaintiff was sentenced to 3-9 years
imprisonment (collectively, the "Prior Convictions"). Plaintiff's
current incarceration is based on a 1997 conviction for two
counts of burglary (the "Current Conviction"). Plaintiff moves to
exclude evidence of all of these convictions, arguing that the
Prior Convictions are inadmissible as too remote, and that the
Current Conviction has very low probative value and is unduly
prejudicial. At oral argument, Defendants confirmed that they do
not oppose Plaintiff's motion as to the Prior Convictions; that
element of the motion is, accordingly, granted. As for the
Current Conviction, the Court reserves decision until trial.
DAMAGES FOR PAROLE VIOLATION INCARCERATION
In Dallas II, the Court (Pauley, J.) rejected Defendants'
contention that Plaintiff's false arrest cause of action is
barred by collateral estoppel based on the result of Plaintiff's
final parole revocation hearing. Dallas II, 2000 WL 1092986 at
*3. The Court also rejected Defendants' argument that Plaintiff's
causes of action fail because Plaintiff has not satisfied the
jurisdictional prerequisite defined for certain section 1983
actions by the Supreme Court in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477,
114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). Dallas II, 2000 WL
1092986 at *3. The Heck Court held that,
in order to recover damages for allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for
other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would
render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983
plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence
has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal
authorized to make such determination, or called into
question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
habeas corpus. . . . A claim for damages bearing that
relationship to a conviction or sentence that has
not been so invalidated is not cognizable under §
Heck, 512 U.S. at 487, 114 S.Ct. 2364 (emphasis in original).
In a footnote, Judge Pauley expressed a different view, however,
with respect to Plaintiff's effort to recover damages for his
parole revocation incarceration in connection with his false
arrest, malicious prosecution and abuse of process causes of
Although the parties did not brief the issue, it
should follow that plaintiff cannot
recover damages arising from his incarceration for
violating the conditions of his parole since the
final revocation decision has never been overturned.
Cf. Amended Compl. ¶¶ 71, 89, 96.*fn3
Dallas II, 2000 WL 1092986 at *3 n. 2.