Monday, May 13, 2013

NM Law Requires Arresting Officers to Timely Bring Defendant to Probable Cause Hearing

Wilson v. Montano, 2013 WL 1848138 (5/3/13) (N.M.) (Published) - A good civil rights case that might have ramifications in many New Mexico districts. A deputy sheriff had the plaintiff arrested and detained in Valencia County Detention Center (VCDC). The deputy prepared a misdemeanor complaint against the plaintiff, but he never filed it or brought the plaintiff before a judicial officer for a probable cause determination. 11 days after the arrest, the plaintiff was released by a sua sponte order of a magistrate judge. Similar things happened to many others detained at VCDC. All agreed the plaintiff had a clearly established Fourth Amendment right to a prompt probable cause determination, a hearing within 48 hours of arrest. The defendants defended on the grounds that it wasn't clear who had the obligation to provide that right. But New Mexico law places the obligation on arresting officers. The 10th reached this conclusion despite an unpublished case saying arresting officers do not have such an obligation. An older published case says otherwise. The officer who actually brought the plaintiff to the jail was not liable. He just assisted in an arrest ordered by the deputy. On the other hand, given his personal involvement, the deputy would be liable if the plaintiff's allegations were true. Also New Mexico law placed on the sheriff and the warden the responsibility of ensuring arrestees received prompt probable cause determinations. It didn't matter that the New Mexico Rules of Procedure don't explicitly assign that duty or that a statute prohibited the release of a prisoner without an order of release. They didn't have to release the plaintiff, only provide him with a hearing. The allegations that the warden and sheriff had a policy of holding people without pending criminal charges until a court sua sponte ordered their release were sufficient to establish the necessary deliberate indifference to withstand a motion to dismiss. It did not matter whether they knew of the plaintiff's particular circumstances.