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State v. Roshchin

Court of Appeals of Maryland

January 26, 2016


         Argued October 5, 2015

Page 454

          Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Case No. 02-C-12-167294.

         For Petitioners: Julia Doyle Bernhardt, Assistant Attorney General (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General of Maryland William C. Lindsey, Robert J. Sager, Sharon B. Benzil, Assistant Attorneys General of Maryland of Baltimore, MD) on brief.

         For Respondents: Ryan A. Mitchell (Kramon & Graham, P.A. of Baltimore, MD) on brief.

         Barbera, C.J., Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Harrell, Glenn T., Jr., (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ. Opinion by McDonald, J. Adkins, J., dissents.


Page 455

         [446 Md. 131] McDonald, J.

         State law authorizes Petitioner Maryland Aviation Administration (" MAA" ) to adopt regulations governing commercial ground transportation services at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (" BWI" ). The law [446 Md. 132] classifies a violation of those regulations as a misdemeanor. While a police officer is generally authorized to arrest an individual who commits a misdemeanor in the officer's presence, a statute directs a police officer who observes a misdemeanor violation of an MAA regulation to issue a citation for the violation and also provides that an officer " need not" make an arrest, except in certain circumstances. This case concerns whether an officer retains authority to arrest for such an offense even when the officer " need not" do so.

         At the time of the incident giving rise to this case, Respondent Vadim Roshchin was employed as a driver by Respondent American Sedan Services, Inc. (" American Sedan" ). American Sedan is a commercial transportation service that has a permit from MAA to provide ground transportation services at BWI. In February 2010, Mr. Roshchin was picking up passengers at the airport without the required permit in his possession. Providing commercial transportation services at BWI without displaying a permit as required by an MAA regulation is a misdemeanor. Maryland Transportation Authority (" MdTA" ) police, who happened to be conducting a special enforcement effort of the permit requirement that night, arrested Mr. Roshchin and impounded American Sedan's car. Both were released early the next day. The criminal charges against Mr. Roshchin were ultimately dropped.

         Two years later Mr. Roshchin and American Sedan sued MAA, MdTA, the

Page 456

MdTA police, and the State for false arrest, false imprisonment, and related claims. They asserted that the arrest of Mr. Roshchin and impoundment of the car without the issuance of a citation were unlawful, because issuing a citation is mandatory and, in these circumstances, exclusive of an arrest. They also argued that the regulation had to be posted at the airport to be enforceable and that it had not been posted.

         We hold that nothing in the MAA regulation or the Transportation Article deprives a police officer of the general authority under Maryland law to arrest an individual who commits [446 Md. 133] a misdemeanor in the presence of the officer. Thus, the arrest of Mr. Roshchin and the impoundment of the American Sedan car for noncompliance with the permit requirement were lawful. The regulation requiring commercial transportation services to display permits need only have been published in accordance with the State Administrative Procedure Act and State Documents Law and was not required to be posted at the airport as a prerequisite to its enforcement. On the basis of the undisputed facts, the claims of Mr. Roshchin and American Sedan fail as a matter of law.



         A. Regulation of Ground Transportation at BWI

         MAA operates BWI, a State-owned airport. Maryland Code, Transportation Article (" TR" ), § 5-412. MAA has established certain rules concerning the discharge and pick-up of passengers by commercial transportation services on the roadways adjacent to the airport terminal. MAA enters into contracts with certain transportation companies, which pay fees for the privilege of using the " inner roadway" near the baggage claim to pick up passengers who have not previously arranged for transportation.

         Certain other categories of commercial vehicles are authorized to use the " outer roadway" under permits issued by MAA. One such category is for-hire commercial transportation services that arrange in advance to pick up arriving passengers. COMAR (" Regulation 05-1A(6)" ).[1] These services are prohibited from picking up a passenger who has not made an arrangement with the service in advance. Regulation 05-1C(1).

          [446 Md. 134] MAA regulations require operators of commercial vehicles conducting business at BWI to obtain and display a permit from the MAA. Regulation 05-1A(1), (3), C(5). A commercial operator that falls within this category must display the permit on the rearview mirror of the vehicle. There is no dispute that the failure to obtain or display the permit is a misdemeanor, although the parties disagree as to the statute that sets forth that offense.[2]

          The MdTA Police Force, a law enforcement

Page 457

agency created by State law,[3] provides law enforcement services at BWI. In particular, MdTA police officers have the powers " of a peace officer and a police officer" under State law on airport property. TR § 4-208(a)(2), (b). Among other things, MdTA police officers enforce the rules relating to the pick-up and discharge of passengers by commercial vehicles.

         From time to time, in response to numerous complaints about the unauthorized operation of commercial vehicles at BWI,[4] MAA and the MdTA police have conducted " enforcement initiatives" at the airport to deter such illegal activity. During such initiatives, police officers stop operators of commercial vehicles to determine whether they are operating legally. Initially, officers conducting enforcement initiatives issued citations to first time offenders and arrested recidivists. [446 Md. 135] However, the MdTA police eventually concluded that arresting all violators was a more effective deterrent. One such arrest resulted in this case.

         B. The Arrest and Impoundment

         The circumstances of the arrest of Mr. Roshchin and the impoundment of American Sedan's vehicle are undisputed. During the evening of February 23, 2010, MAA and the MdTA police were conducting an initiative at BWI focused on enforcement of the regulations requiring commercial transportation services to obtain and display a permit. As part of that effort, police officers stopped commercial vehicles to check for permits.

         On that evening, Mr. Roshchin was operating a commercial vehicle on behalf of American Sedan to make a pre-arranged pick-up of two passengers at BWI. American Sedan had a valid permit for the vehicle,[5] but Mr. Roshchin had left it in a different American Sedan vehicle.[6] As a result, he was picking up the passengers without displaying a permit, in violation of the regulations.

         At around 7:40 p.m. on that night, officers stopped Mr. Roshchin and determined that he was not displaying a permit. They arrested him and impounded American Sedan's vehicle. Mr. Roshchin was processed

Page 458

at the MdTA police facility at BWI and then transported with other arrestees to a District [446 Md. 136] Court Commissioner in Anne Arundel County. The Commissioner issued a charging document alleging that Mr. Roshchin had violated Regulation 05-1 and released him on his own recognizance early the next morning. American Sedan recovered its vehicle that day after paying a $150 towing fee. The State's Attorney for Anne Arundel County eventually decided not to prosecute Mr. Roshchin.

         C. The Litigation

         Two years later, in February 2012, Mr. Roshchin and American Sedan filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County against the State of Maryland, MAA, MdTA, and the MdTA police (collectively, " the State" ). The counts seeking relief for Mr. Roshchin alleged false arrest, false imprisonment, and a violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights -- the due process clause of the Maryland Constitution. The counts seeking relief for American Sedan asserted tort claims for trespass to chattels and tortious interference with business relations.

         The State moved for summary judgment on the basis that the arrest was supported by probable cause and did not violate Mr. Roshchin's rights under Article 24, and that the impoundment of the American Sedan vehicle was appropriate in light of the lawful arrest.[7] The Circuit Court granted summary judgment for the State on all counts, relying on Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure Article (" CP" ), § 2-202, which authorizes a police officer to make a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor committed in the presence of the officer.

         Mr. Roshchin and American Sedan appealed. The Court of Special Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment. 219 Md.App. 169, 100 A.3d 499 (2014). The court concluded that the arrest did not violate Mr. Roshchin's constitutional [446 Md. 137] rights because the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that Mr. Roshchin had committed a misdemeanor in the officer's presence. Nonetheless, it also held that the officer lacked legal justification for the arrest. In particular, the court concluded that TR § 5-1104, which provides that an officer " shall prepare" a citation and " need not" arrest an individual charged with a misdemeanor under the State aviation law, limited the officer's discretion to take Mr. Roshchin into custody. The court further reasoned that, because TR § 5-1104 is the more specific statute, it prevailed over the general arrest authority conferred on police officers by CP § 2-202. The court also held that the regulation that Mr. Roshchin had allegedly violated was required to be posted to be enforceable and that there was a factual dispute as to whether the regulation had been properly posted, rendering summary judgment inappropriate. For the same reasons, the court also reversed the Circuit Court's award of summary judgment on the two tort claims of American Sedan.

         We granted the State's petition for a writ of certiorari to consider whether there was legal justification for the arrest of Mr. Roshchin and whether posting of the regulation affects that determination.

Page 459



         At issue before us is whether the State is entitled to summary judgment on Mr. Roshchin's claims of false arrest and false imprisonment and American Sedan's related tort claims.[8] Summary judgment is appropriate when " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [a] party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Maryland Rule 2-501(a). Because the decision turns on resolution of a legal issue, a trial court's grant of summary judgment is " subject to [446 Md. 138] a non-deferential review on appeal." Muskin v. State Dep't of Assessments & Taxation, 422 Md. 544, 554, 30 A.3d 962 (2011).

         A. Whether There was Legal Justification to Arrest Mr. Roshchin that Precludes Potential Tort Liability in this Case

         1. The relationship between tort liability and police authority to arrest a driver and impound a vehicle

          For a plaintiff to succeed on a false arrest or false imprisonment claim, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant deprived the plaintiff " of his or her liberty without consent and without legal justification." Okwa v. Harper, 360 Md. 161, 190, 757 A.2d 118 (2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). One possible legal justification for an arrest is set forth in CP § 2-202(b), which provides that a police officer " may arrest without a warrant a person who commits ... a ... misdemeanor in the presence or within the view of the police officer." This provision codifies the common law concerning the authority of a peace officer to make an arrest in those circumstances. See D. Kauffman, The Law of Arrest in Maryland, 5 Md. L.Rev. 125, 155-57 (1941). In other words, a police officer who observes a person committing a misdemeanor and makes a warrantless arrest of the offender ordinarily will not be liable for false arrest or false imprisonment, because CP § 2-202 provides legal justification for the deprivation of liberty.

         Likewise, one is not liable for trespass to chattels when one " is acting in discharge of ... authority created by law to preserve the public safety, health, peace, or other public interest, and [one's] act is reasonably necessary to the performance of [one's] duty ..." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 265. Police have authority to " seize and remove ... vehicles impeding traffic or threatening public safety and convenience." Wilson v. State, 409 Md. 415, 430 n. 5, 975 A.2d 877 (2009). Pursuant to Regulation 05(B)(2), a vehicle may not be left unattended at curbside at BWI, because it poses a threat to public safety and an impediment to public convenience. [446 Md. 139] There is no exception to this rule when the vehicle is unattended because the driver was arrested. Thus, ...

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