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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reverses district court’s summary judgment for defendant Seminole County in civil rights case alleging unlawful detention

On April 15, 2020, in Barnett v. MacArthur, et al, No. 18-12238, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s summary judgment for defendant Seminole County in a civil rights case in which the plaintiff alleged that she had been unlawfully detained at the Seminole County Jail following a DUI arrest. Although breathalyzer tests performed at the jail allegedly established that she had a blood alcohol level of 0.00, she was required to remain at the jail for eight hours from the time of her arrest pursuant to the DUI “hold policy” of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. In granting summary judgment in favor of the Sheriff, the district court reasoned that the hold policy is consistent with Florida Statute § 316.193(9), which allows the option of holding a person for eight hours after a DUI arrest. However, the Eleventh Circuit pointed out that the statute permits the release of a arrestee before the eight hours have expired if the person’s blood alcohol level is less than .05 or she is otherwise determined to be no longer under the influence of alcohol or other chemical substances. The Eleventh Circuit quoted from its previous decision in Barnett v. MacArthur, 715 F. App’x 894 (11th Cir. 2017): “[w]hen an officer exercises this discretion under Florida law, the Constitution requires her to exercise her discretion in a way that does not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights.”

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