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Georgia Courts Clarify Qualified Immunity for Police Officers

In an interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals granted summary judgment in favor of two officers in a malicious prosecution claim. The Court, in Brown v., 331 Ga.App. 890 (March 30, 2015), held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity due to their arguable reasonable suspicion too detain Plaintiff.

Plaintiff went to a mall while openly carrying a hand gun in a waistband holster. After being asked by a security guard to return the gun to his car, plaintiff was questioned in the parking lot by an off duty officer and a second security guard. The officer asked plaintiff for his firearms license and after he refused to produce the document, the officer stood behind the plaintiff’s car, blocking him from leaving the parking lot. The officer called the police, stating that there was an armed subject who was a suspect in a shoplifting incident. Shortly thereafter, two officers arrived and arrested plaintiff for misdemeanor obstruction.

That charge was ultimately dismissed; however, plaintiff and brought a claim of malicious prosecution against the arresting officers. The court held that the officers were entitled to rely on the information they received from the off duty officer that plaintiff was a suspect in a crime. With that information, the officers had “arguable reasonable suspicion” to detain plaintiff. Accordingly, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity from a malicious prosecution claim under 42 USC § 1983.

The attorneys at Buckley Christopher & Haff are available to assist you and your company in ensuring that your employment practices are within the bounds of the law and to represent you if litigation arises. Please contact one of our attorneys for more information.

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