United States District Court, D. Maryland
Paula Xinis, United States District Judge
Raymond Drumgoole filed a civil rights action challenging his
arrest and pre-trial incarceration for unlawful possession of
a firearm. ECF No. 1. After the Court informed him of the
deficiencies in his original Complaint, Drumgoole filed an
Amended Complaintnaming Officer Paul Pastorek as the sole
Defendant. ECF No. 7. Pastorek moved to dismiss the
Complaint, ECF No. 12, which Drumgoole opposed, ECF No. 16.
The matter is now ripe for review. For the reasons that
follow, Pastorek's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.
15, 2015, Pastorek conducted a traffic stop of a car in which
Drumgoole was a passenger. ECF No. 7 at 2. Drumgoole states
that the basis for the traffic stop was that there was no
license plate affixed to the car's front bumper, which
Pastorek says was a violation of Maryland law. See
Md. Code Ann. Transp., § 13-411. Id.; ECF No.
12-1 at 4. A license plate was on the car's dashboard.
ECF No. 7 at 2; ECF No. 16 at 1-2.
second officer appeared on the scene and was standing
“at the passenger side window observing
[Drumgoole].” ECF No. 7 at 3. While the second officer
was observing Drumgoole, the driver of the car, Monique
Mason, exited the car to speak with Pastorek. Id. at
2-3; see ECF No. 12-1 at 4 (stating name of driver).
Drumgoole states that “[a]ccording to the primary ofc.
Paul Pastorek police report he state that the driver told him
that I must have put the gun in her purse when she left the
vehical [sic] to speak to the primary ofc.” ECF No. 7
was removed from the car. Pastorek then found a gun inside
Mason's purse. Both Drumgoole and Mason denied ownership
of the gun and both were arrested and charged with possession
of a handgun. Id. at 2-4. According to Drumgoole,
when Mason was interviewed by another officer following her
arrest, she admitted that “she put the gun in the
purse, ” but Drumgoole continued to be detained on the
handgun charge. Id. at 3. Drumgoole was unable to
pay the $500, 000 bail and remained detained for 11 months
pending trial. Drumgoole was ultimately acquitted of all
charges. Id. at 4.
has filed suit, asserting that Pastorek violated his
constitutional rights by falsely arresting and imprisoning
him. Id. at 4-5. At base, Drumgoole challenges the
reasonableness of his arrest for handgun possession because
Mason could not credibly be believed as to having seen
Drumgoole put the gun in Mason's pursue while a fellow
officer stood watch. Id. at 2-3. Pastorek moved to
dismiss Drumgoole's Complaint, arguing that Drumgoole
failed to state a claim because his arrest was plainly
supported by probable cause and, in any event, Pastorek was
entitled to qualified immunity. ECF No. 12-1.
Standard of Review
moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 12. When reviewing a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, a court must determine whether the complaint
includes facts sufficient to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). A plaintiff must plead facts to
support each element of the claim to satisfy the standard.
See McCleary-Evans v. Maryland Dep't of Transp.,
State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015).
In so assessing, the Court takes as true all well-pleaded
factual allegations and makes all reasonable inferences in
the plaintiff's favor. Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem.
Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). The Court does
not credit conclusory statements or legal conclusions, even
when couched as allegations of fact. See Iqbal, 556
U.S. 678-79; Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298,
302 (4th Cir. 2008).
claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by
showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in
the complaint. Id. at 562. The court need not,
however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene
v. Charles Cty Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir.
1989), legal conclusions couched as factual allegations,
see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to
actual events, see United Black Firefighters v.
Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
argues that this action should be dismissed because he is
entitled to qualified immunity. The purpose of qualified
immunity is to ensure that government officials performing
discretionary functions, like police officers, can
“perform their duties free from the specter of endless
and debilitating lawsuits.” Torchinsky v.
Siwinski, 942 F.2d 257, 260 (4th Cir. 1991). Without
qualified immunity, a substantial risk exists that fear of
personal liability and desire to avoid harassing litigation
will “unduly inhibit officials in the discharge of
their duties.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S.
635, 638 (1987). Accordingly, government officials are
entitled to qualified immunity for civil damages to the
extent that “their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Accord
Pritchett v. Alford, 973 F.2d 307, 312 (4th Cir. 1992).
resolution of a qualified immunity defense is a two-pronged
inquiry, requiring the court to determine: (1) whether the
facts established by the plaintiff make out a violation of a
federal right; and (2) “whether the right at issue was
‘clearly established' at the time of
defendant's alleged misconduct.” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009). Accordingly,
government officials are entitled to qualified immunity for
civil damages to the extent that “their conduct does
not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).
“[Q]ualified immunity protects law officers from
‘bad guesses in gray areas' and it ensures that