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Hoyos v. The City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

December 11, 2013

Alberto HOYOS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, P.O SCOTT HARRISON, Shield No. 12787, Individually and in His Official Capacity, P.O. ARI AVRON, Shield No. 9506, Individually and in His Official Capacity, Defendants

Decided December 10, 2013.

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For Alberto Hoyos, Plaintiff: Alex Umansky, Norinsberg LLP, New York, NY; Jon L. Norinsberg, Law Office of Jon L. Norinsberg, New York, NY.

For City of New York, P.O. Scott Harrison, shield #12787, individually and in his official capacity, P.O. Ari Arvon, shield #9506, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants: Matthew J. Modafferi, Steve Stavridis, LEAD ATTORNEYS, New York City Law Department, New York, NY; Benjamin E. Stockman, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, New York, NY.

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OPINION AND ORDER

NINA GERSHON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Alberto Hoyos (" Hoyos" ) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants, the City of New York and Officers Scott Harrison and Ari Avron of the New York City Police Department, violated his civil rights as a result of his arrest and subsequent prosecution on two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol. Plaintiff was acquitted of the charges following a jury trial in the Criminal Court of the City of New York that concluded on November 19, 2009. In this action, plaintiff alleges that he was deprived generally of his federal civil rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; falsely arrested; maliciously prosecuted; subjected to malicious abuse of process; deprived of his federal constitutional right to a fair trial; and subjected to the aforementioned violations as a result of the unconstitutional policies and procedures of the City of New York. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as to his false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and fair trial claims. For the reasons set forth herein, defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

Defendants also seek judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as to plaintiff's claims for deprivation of his " federal civil rights," unlawful search, and municipal liability. Plaintiff does not oppose defendants' motion for judgment on these claims. ( See Pl.'s Opp. Br. at 2, n.1.).[1]

FACTS

The parties offer sharply different versions of certain of the facts surrounding the events of March 6, 2008, the date of plaintiff's arrest on charges of Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol, but, as will become clear, the differences between the parties' conflicting accounts are not material to the disposition of this action.

The core of undisputed facts as to which both parties agree is as follows. In the early morning hours of March 6, 2008, two non-party New York Police Department (" NYPD" ) officers, Patrick Lynch and Jennifer Olivera, transported three prisoners from the 115th police precinct to the Queens Criminal Court House in a marked NYPD van. After dropping off the prisoners, Officers Lynch and Olivera left the Queens Criminal Court House at approximately 2:30 a.m. and proceeded to return to the 115th precinct. As they were driving along the westbound Grand Central Parkway, Officers Lynch and Olivera observed plaintiff driving a dark Lexus sport utility vehicle (" SUV" ). Plaintiff's vehicle, which had slowed to approximately 30 miles per hour, swerved suddenly, cutting across several lanes of the Grand Central Parkway and nearly striking the officers' police van. After the SUV came to rest--against the guardrail of the right-hand shoulder of the Grand Central Parkway (according to the officers) or parked in the exit lane of a Dunkin' Donuts/Mobil Gas Station rest area (according to plaintiff)--Hoyos remained in the vehicle and dozed off. Just minutes later, Officer Lynch knocked on the driver's side window of the SUV, awakening plaintiff. Plaintiff admits

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to being in a " tired" and " groggy" state when he spoke with Officer Lynch and the other investigating officers, and he does not dispute that his eyes may have been bloodshot. ( See Hoyos Dep. 139:13-21 & 162:10-11.)

After speaking with Hoyos, Officer Lynch called Officer Harrison on his personal cell phone to request assistance with a possible DUI offense (according to the officers) or with an arrest (according to plaintiff). Officer Harrison and his partner that night, Officer Avron, were assigned to the NYPD's Queens North Task Force. This task force is a specialized unit that concentrates on DUI enforcement and disorder control within the confines of the 104th, 108th, 109th, 11th, 112th, and 115th police precincts. Officer Harrison became a member of the Queens North Task Force in 2004, and Officer Avron became a member of the task force in 2006. As members of the task force, both officers had received specialized training for handling DUI arrests and collectively had made almost 200 DUI arrests. Approximately five minutes after receiving Officer Lynch's call, Officers Harrison and Avron arrived at the scene, and Officer Lynch briefed Officer Harrison about what he and his partner had observed.

At this point, the parties' narratives diverge. Defendants maintain that, upon their arrival at the scene, Officer Lynch informed Officer Harrison that, while returning to their precinct, plaintiff's SUV suddenly swerved into the officers' lane, nearly striking their police van; plaintiff's vehicle then came to rest at an angle at the side of the Grand Central Parkway; when Officers Lynch and Olivera first approached plaintiff's vehicle, he was slumped behind the wheel and appeared to be unconscious; and, in Officer Lynch's opinion, plaintiff appeared to be intoxicated. After speaking with Officer Lynch, Officers Harrison and Avron approached plaintiff's vehicle. According to defendants, plaintiff was groggy and he exhibited signs of intoxication: his speech was slurred, his eyes were bloodshot, and he smelled of alcohol. Defendants testified that plaintiff admitted that he had had a few drinks at a club earlier that evening. Officer Avron then reached into plaintiff's vehicle, turned off the ignition, and asked plaintiff to exit the SUV. Upon exiting the vehicle, defendants observed that Hoyos was unsteady on his feet, and Officer Avron needed to grab his arm to prevent him from falling. At that point, defendants arrested Hoyos on one count of driving while intoxicated and transported him to the 112th precinct.

According to plaintiff, after having dinner at a friend's house, he fell asleep on the friend's couch until 2:00 a.m. in the morning of March 6, 2008, when he woke up and proceeded to drive home. While driving along the Grand Central Parkway, he began to feel " very tired" and " sluggish," so he decided to pull into a Dunkin' Donuts/Mobil Gas Station rest area located alongside the highway. Plaintiff contends that: (i) he slowed from 55-60 miles per hour to approximately 30 miles per hour, and then swerved across the Grand Central Parkway, only because he missed the entrance to the rest area; (ii) his SUV did not come to rest at an angle against the guardrail on the shoulder of the Grand Central Parkway; (iii) rather, he parked his vehicle in the exit lane of the rest area and turned the ignition off; (iv) he was merely resting when Officer Lynch tapped on his window; (v) he had not had anything to drink that evening; (vi) his breath did not smell of alcohol; (vii) he did not stumble when he exited the SUV; (vii) he did not tell any of the officers that he had a few drinks at a club; and (viii) he took a portable breathalyzer test at the scene.

The parties' narratives largely coalesce once again after plaintiff is arrested. Both

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parties agree that plaintiff was taken to an Intoxicated Driver Test Unit room at the 112th precinct, which is equipped with breathalyzer machines and video equipment for recording the breathalyzer tests. While Officer Avron operated a video camera, Officer Harrison asked plaintiff multiple times if he would agree to submit to a breathalyzer test. When plaintiff did not agree to take the test, Officer Harrison advised him of the consequences under § 1194 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law of refusing to take the test, including the immediate suspension and subsequent revocation of his driver's license, but Hoyos again refused to take the breathalyzer test.

Defendants then met with prosecutors from the Queens County District Attorney's Office, and a criminal complaint against Hoyos was sworn to by Officer Avron. The criminal complaint charges Hoyos with one count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in violation of ยง 1192(3) of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law. The complaint alleges that Hoyos's breath smelled of alcohol, he had bloodshot and watery eyes, his speech was slurred, and he was unsteady on his feet when he exited his vehicle; Hoyos refused to take a breathalyzer exam at the 112th precinct; and that Hoyos admitted to having had a few drinks. Following a jury trial in the Criminal Court of the City of New York, County of Queens, that concluded on November 19, ...


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