Michalewski v. Town of Farmington
Evidence that a driver whose eyes are "bloodshot and glossy" fails field sobriety tests and admits that her tire is flat because she collided with a curb can provide probable cause to arrest for driving under the influence. Allegedly, Police Officer Kevin Naranjo observed the plaintiff's husband, walking on Farmington Avenue in Farmington at 2:56 a.m. Later that night, other officers reported that they had discovered a motor vehicle that had struck a tree and that the motor vehicle was registered to the plaintiff's husband. Officer Naranjo searched for the plaintiff's husband. At 3:20 a.m., Officer Naranjo observed the plaintiff's motor vehicle. Allegedly, it had a tire that was so flat that the rubber had worn away, and the wheel was making sparks. Naranjo activated his emergency lights, to pull over the motor vehicle. Allegedly, the eyes of the plaintiff driver were "bloodshot and glossy," and the plaintiff admitted that her tire was flat because she had collided with a curb. Officers arrested the plaintiff, because she failed field sobriety tests. Charges were dismissed. The plaintiff, Barbara Michalewski, sued Officer Naranjo, alleging false arrest. The plaintiff alleged that she was arrested because she argued with her husband, who had been drinking, and that Officer Naranjo assumed that she been drinking. The plaintiff also alleged that the Town of Farmington failed to adequately train and supervise Officer Naranjo. "Probable cause, broadly defined, comprises such facts as would reasonably persuade an impartial and reasonable mind not merely to suspect or conjecture, but to believe that criminal activity has occurred," pursuant to State v. Barton, a 1991 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The court found that Officer Naranjo had probable cause to arrest, because the plaintiff allegedly had "bloodshot and glossy" eyes, she failed field sobriety tests and she admitted that she had collided with the curb. Allegations in the plaintiff's complaint described acts and omissions that are typical of law enforcement police officers. "These actions," wrote the court, "are inherently discretionary activities as a matter of law, to which governmental immunity applies." The court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.