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Lefevre v. County of Albany

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 13, 2015

COUNTY OF ALBANY, et al., Defendants.

PETER P. LODUCA, ESQ. Levidow, Levidow & Oberman, New York, NY, for the Plaintiff.

PATRICK J. COLLINS, ESQ., Albany County Attorney's Office, Albany, NY, for the Defendants.


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Sudane Lefevre commenced this action against defendants County of Albany and County of Albany District Attorneys Office, asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based upon violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as claims pursuant to New York state law, for malicious prosecution and false arrest. ( See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending is defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 10.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

II. Background[1]

On July 9, 2011, Lefevre made a 911 call seeking help for another individual who had overdosed on drugs. (Compl. ¶ 16.) When members of the Colonie Police Department responded to the call, Lefevre was arrested and charged with possession of drugs and loitering, pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law §§ 220.09, 220.60, and 240.36. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) Lefevre was released on bail pending indictment by a grand jury. (Id. ¶ 18.) After Lefevre's arrest, but before the indictment was handed down, the New York State legislature, on July 20, 2011, passed a "Good Samaritan Law, " which was to become effective on September 18, 2011. (Id. ¶ 19); see N.Y. Penal Law § 220.78. This law states that, with certain limited exceptions, "[a] person who, in good faith, seeks health care for someone who is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other life threatening medical emergency shall not be charged or prosecuted for a controlled substance offense under article two hundred twenty" of the Penal Law. N.Y. Penal Law § 220.78(1).

On October 28, 2011, Lefevre was indicted by a grand jury for drug possession and loitering. (Compl. ¶ 20.) It appears that Lefevre ultimately pleaded guilty to a criminal offense, though it is not clear as alleged to which charge he pleaded guilty. (Id. ¶ 39.) On May 9, 2012, he was sentenced to three and one-half years in prison for a drug possession-related offense. (Id. ¶ 28.) While incarcerated, he "made a motion to be released, " in which he argued that the Good Samaritan Law precluded him from being charged or prosecuted for any offense. (Id. ¶ 29.) Lefevre alleges that defendants testified falsely and withheld information from the judge in his criminal case by not disclosing that the Good Samaritan Law applied to the facts of his case. (Id. ¶ 22.) On February 20, 2013, all charges were dismissed after Lefevre had been incarcerated for approximately one year. (Id. ¶ 23.)

Lefevre commenced this action in February 2014, alleging that he was falsely prosecuted and imprisoned, in that he was charged with drug possession even though defendants knew such charges were false. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 37.) He asserts causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal search and seizure, his Sixth Amendment right to be informed of the charges against him, and his Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection rights.[2] (Id. ¶¶ 34-46.) He also asserts claims of malicious prosecution, false arrest, and negligence pursuant to New York common law.[3] (Id. ¶¶ 15-26, 27-33, 47-51.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is well settled and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its prior decision in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F.Supp.2d 215, 218 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

IV. Discussion

Although not a model of clarity, the theory pleaded in Lefevre's complaint as to his section 1983 cause(s) of action appears to be that he should not have been prosecuted for drug possession, presumably because of the passage of the Good Samaritan Law, and, as a result, he was improperly incarcerated on such a charge. ( See generally Compl.) He has asserted analogous claims for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment under state law. (Id. ) In their motion, defendants have offered several arguments in favor of dismissing the complaint. Defendants first argue that the District Attorney's Office is absolutely immune from liability for malicious prosecution, under both section 1983 and state law, for its decision to initiate and pursue a prosecution against Lefevre. (Dkt. No. 10, Attach. 1 at 5-7.) Defendants further argue that there is no basis to hold the County of Albany liable, given the absolute immunity enjoyed by the District Attorney's Office, ( id. at 7-8), and because Lefevre has not alleged any facts to support the imposition of municipal liability on the County, ( id. at 8-12). In response, Lefevre generically argues that decisions of a municipal policymaker can subject a municipality ...

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