United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, CHIEF JUDGE
Allen Winners, a Plaintiff proceeding pro se, filed a
Complaint [ECF No. 1] against the Defendant, Jared
Fradenburgh, a police officer for the State of Indiana. He
also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis
[ECF No. 2]. For the reasons set forth below, the
Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED. The Plaintiff's
Complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), and he is GRANTED additional time to amend
his Complaint, accompanied either by the statutory filing fee
or another Petition to Proceed Without PrePayment of Fees and
Costs. If the Plaintiff fails to amend his Complaint within
the time allowed, the Clerk will be directed to close this
case without further notice to the Plaintiff.
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee to bring an
action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However,
the federal in forma pauperis (IFP) statute, 28 U.S.C. §
1915, provides indigent litigants an opportunity for
meaningful access to the federal courts despite their
inability to pay the costs and fees associated with that
access. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319
(1989). To authorize a litigant to proceed IFP, a court must
make two determinations: first, whether the litigant is
unable to pay the costs of commencing the action, §
1915(a)(1); and second, whether the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief, § 1915(e)(2)(B).
the first inquiry, an indigent party may commence an action
in federal court, without prepayment of costs and fees, upon
submission of an affidavit asserting an inability “to
pay such fees or give security therefor.” Id.
§ 1915(a). Here, the Plaintiff's Motion establishes
that he is unable to prepay the filing fee.
inquiry does not end there, however. In assessing whether a
plaintiff may proceed IFP, a court must look to the
sufficiency of the complaint to determine whether it can be
construed as stating a claim for which relief can be granted
or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief. Id. § 1915(e)(2)(B). District
courts have the power under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to
screen complaints even before service of the complaint on the
defendants, and must dismiss the complaint if it fails to
state a claim. Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th
Cir. 1999). Courts apply the same standard under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) as when addressing a motion to dismiss
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Luevano
v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1018, 1027 (7th
state a claim under the federal notice pleading standards, a
complaint must set forth a “short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations are
accepted as true and need only give “fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc.,
496 F.3d 773, 776-77 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). However, a
plaintiff's allegations must show that his entitlement to
relief is plausible, rather than merely speculative.
Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir.
basis for the Plaintiff's suit appears to be as follows:
the Defendant detained the Plaintiff after observing the
Plaintiff operating a vehicle with a light that was not
functioning. The encounter lasted for about thirty-five
minutes and resulted in a citation for driving while
suspended. The Plaintiff asserts that this detention was
unlawful because the Defendant did not have a warrant for his
detention, which denied him due process of law. The Plaintiff
appears to be asserting a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Plaintiff seeks $5, 000, 000 in damages.
relevant part, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 states:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for
redress . . . .
order to state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that the defendants deprived him of a right secured by
the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that the
defendants acted under color of state law.” Brokaw
v. Mercer Cty., 235 F.3d 1000, 1009 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citing Starnes v. Cap. Cities Media, Inc., 39 F.3d
1394, 1396 (7th Cir. 1994)). The right secured by the
Constitution that the Plaintiff asserts appears to be his
Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
the “right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. When police
officers stop an automobile and detain the occupants briefly,
the stop amounts to a seizure within the meaning of the
Fourth Amendment. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S.
806, 809-10 (1996); see also United States v.
Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (stating that the
Fourth Amendment's protection against “unreasonable
searches and seizures” extends to “brief
investigatory stops of persons or vehicles”). “As
a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is
reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe
that a traffic violation has occurred.” Whren,
517 U.S. at 810.
“a seizure that is lawful at its inception can violate
the Fourth Amendment if its manner of execution unreasonably
infringes interests protected by the Constitution.”
Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2005). The
length of detention following a traffic stop based upon
probable cause must be reasonable. Id.; United
States v. Muriel, 418 F.3d 720, 725 (7th Cir. 2005);
United States v. Childs, 277 F.3d 947, 954 (7th Cir.
2002) (en banc) (“What the Constitution requires is
that the entire process remain reasonable.”).
Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts that plausibly
suggest that the Defendant violated the Plaintiff's
Fourth Amendment rights. A police officer does not need a
warrant to execute a traffic stop so long as he has probable
cause to believe that the driver has committed a traffic
violation. In this case, the Plaintiff has stated that the
Defendant pulled him over for having a light out. Indiana
Code §§ 9-19-6-3 and 9-19-6-4 detail headlight and
taillight requirements for vehicles operating in the State,
and the Plaintiff has not alleged that his lights were, ...