RAY v. CITY OF CHICAGO (January 5, 2011)

A Chicago Police officer pulled over Nona Ray for driving an night without headlights. He arrested her when he found cocaine in her car. She was charged with possession of a controlled substance and was detained for several hours. The officer also impounded her vehicle. The drug charges against her were eventually dropped. She contested the seizure of her automobile but a hearing officer found in favor of the City. Ray brought suit against the City and the officer, claiming a deprivation of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. She also sought review of the hearing officer's finding and challenged the constitutionality of the seizure ordinance. Judge Zagel (N.D. Ill) dismissed the complaint. Ray appeals.

In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Cudahy, Rovner, and Evans affirmed. First, the Court rejected Ray's claim that the officer lacked probable cause to believe that she possessed drugs. The officer had probable cause to believe she committed a traffic offense -- that is all he needed for the arrest. Second, the Court rejected Ray's claim that the length of her detention violated the Constitution. The Court noted that it has held that detentions of up to 14 hours were reasonable absent an improper purpose, which is not alleged here. Third, the Court rejected her malicious prosecution-type claim that the officer planted the drugs. Because Illinois recognizes a malicious prosecution tort, she cannot bring a constitutional claim. Fourth, to the extent she alleged a Brady claim and did not waive it, the Court rejected it. A Brady claim is not viable in a situation where a person is never prosecuted. Finally, the Court rejected her claim regarding the impoundment of her automobile. Not only did she fail to adequately state any reason to reverse the district court, the Court's independent review of the district court's rationale convinced it that it was correct.