CA7: Arrest for disorderly conduct was clearly without PC, so officers get no qualified immunity

Officers have no qualified immunity for an arrest for disorderly conduct that was obviously without probable cause, and no reasonable officer could have concluded otherwise. Catledge v. City of Chicago, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 22118 (7th Cir. Dec. 13, 2016):

That probable cause was so lacking in this case—at least if the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to Catledge—also forecloses the defendants’ reliance on their defense of qualified immunity. On this question we disagree with the district court. A police officer loses the shield of qualified immunity if the facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, demonstrate that the officer’s conduct constituted a violation of a clearly established constitutional right. Doe v. Vill. of Arlington Heights, 782 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2015); Lunini v. Grayeb, 395 F.3d 761, 769 (7th Cir. 2005). The constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches, including being free from searches of one’s vehicle if the police lack probable cause to conclude that it contains evidence of a crime, has been long established. And on this record a jury readily could conclude that Martin and Kappel, who have yet to offer their version of events, knew that they did not have probable cause to believe that Catledge had engaged in stalking or disorderly conduct. Instead a jury could find that the officers searched Catledge’s car knowing full well that he had done nothing more than pretend to be engaged in lawful use of a video camera on a public street.

The officers argue that they have qualified immunity because there wasn’t yet a clear interpretation of the Illinois disorderly conduct statute. Again, they base this argument on Reher’s statement that it was unclear what type of “other suspicious circumstances” would push “mere videotaping” over the line into disorderly conduct. 656 F.3d at 776. But as we just explained, the officers have not identified any suspicious circumstances, so it is irrelevant that ambiguity may exist regarding the kinds of suspicious circumstances that might suggest disorderly conduct. And as we have noted repeatedly, after the Terry investigatory stop, the officers knew that Catledge was not engaged in videotaping at all.

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