Fake Meth Bust Supports 4th Amendment Claim
(CN) - A Colorado man accused of running a meth lab based on white powder found on his property may have a case for malicious prosecution, the 10th Circuit ruled.
The dispute stems from an allegedly false affidavit that Det. Brian Koopman created several years ago in Loveland, Colo., for a warrant to search the property of Jeremy Myers and a nearby sugar-beet laboratory.
Myers said officers found a jar containing a white substance on the property and incorrectly identified as methamphetamine.
With police reporting that they had seized "a lot of dope," Myers said the media portrayed him as a meth manufacturer.
Koopman then allegedly falsified another affidavit to arrest Myers, which a judicial officer granted.
Myers said he surrendered on Sept. 7, 2007, with plans to post bond under an agreement between his attorney and Koopman.
At the police station, however, Koopman allegedly detained him to file additional charges.
Myers said the district attorney filed criminal charges after he bonded out three days later.
Prosecutors nevertheless dropped all charges some months later after further testing of the purported drug samples showed that they were not controlled substances.
Myers then sued Koopman in his individual capacity, but a federal judge ruled against him.
Treating Myers' allegations as true, however, the 10th Circuit found that his claims "paint a compelling picture of overzealous police work."
Ultimately the Denver-based court upheld dismissal of Myers' 14th Amendment claim but said he may have a case under the Fourth Amendment for malicious prosecution.
Under circuit precedent from 2008, Wilkins v. DeReyes, a plaintiff who was detained after the institution of legal process can state a Fourth Amendment violation.
"Here, the district court did not consider whether Myers had been imprisoned before or after the institution of legal process," Judge Gregory Phillips wrote for a three-judge panel. "Instead, apparently overlooking Wilkins, it simply assumed that because Myers premised the claim on a violation of the Fourth Amendment it was 'in the nature of false imprisonment' and accrued on the date of his release."
The district court "overlooked a pivotal detail - Myers' detention occurred after the institution of legal process," Phillips added. "In fact, Myers properly stated a Fourth Amendment claim for malicious prosecution, which accrued on Nov. 15, 2007, when the proceedings resolved in his favor. He timely filed his complaint within two years on Nov. 5, 2009."
In upholding dismissal of the 14th Amendment claim, the appellate panel noted that Myers had "an adequate state remedy.
Myers failed to win sympathy based on the fact that the state tort remedy is now time-barred for him.
"The 14th Amendment guarantees the provision of an adequate remedy, but that remedy need not run in perpetuity," Phillips wrote. "Myers had an adequate remedy. He let it wither. Due process has been duly satisfied." (Emphasis in original.)