False Arrest - Malicious Prosecution - Probable Cause
Heining v. Abernathy, [Ms. 1180273, Aug. 16, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). The Court (Sellers, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, and Stewart, JJ., concur) affirms the Calhoun Circuit Court’s summary judgment in favor of defendants Dean and Abernathy in an action alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution.
The defendants filed a complaint against Ronald and Tyler Heining to the Anniston Police Department accusing the Heinings of bribery and witness intimidation. Lt. George of the Anniston Police Department conducted an investigation which concluded with the arrest of the Heinings for attempted bribery and witness intimidation. Ms. *4. Those charges were ultimately nolle prossed. Ms. *6.
The Court affirmed the summary judgment dismissing the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims asserted by Ronald and Tyler Heining. The Court held that “[o]nce the trial court determined that there was no dispute concerning the underlying facts of Lt. George’s independent investigation, it became irrelevant whether the information conveyed to Lt. George by Fluker had been originally fabricated by Dean and Abernathy.” Ms. *19. The Court applied settled law applicable to both false arrest and malicious prosecution claims that “if the officer ‘acts solely on his own judgment and initiative, the defendant would not be responsible even though he had directed or requested such action, and even though he were actuated by malice or other improper motive.’” Ms. *10, quoting Standard Oil Co. v. Davis, 208 Ala. 565, 567, 94 So. 754, 756 (1922). The Court also applied settled law that “‘[p]robable cause exists if facts and circumstances known to the arresting officer are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that the suspect has committed a crime.’” Ms. *13-14.