Houston mechanic Michael Haven already had his hands full with an irate customer who was threatening to sue him for taking too long to fix his motorcycle.
Things only got worse when the customer called a Houston Police Officer to the scene, according to the Houston Press.
Wanting to document the events for his defense, Haven grabbed a camera and a tape recorder. He turned the recorder on and stuffed it into his pocket.
Then he snapped a photo of the customer’s motorcycle and of the officer’s squad car as it pulled up onto his property.
Houston Police Officer Glen Dickerson immediately rolled down the window and ordered him to stop taking photos. Then he exited the car “in an aggressive manner” and ordered Haven to produce an ID.
Haven told the officer to wait outside while he retrieved his ID from inside the shop, but Dickerson followed closely behind and “stood next to [him] at an uncomfortably close distance,” while he rummaged for his ID in his office.
Seconds after handing over his ID, Haven claims Dickerson grabbed his arm, handcuffed him, and arrested him for assault. Dickerson then allegedly reached into Haven’s pants pocket and found a tape recorder, which was turned on. Haven claims Dickerson listened to the tape and then erased part of it.
Haven was charged with “assault on a police officer” – a felony – according to civil liberties Examiner J.D. Tuccille, who acknowledges that it was legal for Haven to have recorded Dickerson without his consent.
That was in 2007. The case went to court and Haven agreed to work 10 hours of community service to have the case dismissed, only because he did not want to spent the next two years fighting the case.
But since then, the incident has been eating him up, so last month, he filed a lawsuit against Dickerson and the City of Houston claiming his First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
He is also seeking a court order that Houston police officers be “trained to not arrest people for speech, not producing a physical identification or photographing or recording conversations with police.”
The City of Houston responded by filing a motion of dismissal basically admitting that Dickerson had screwed up, but that he or anybody else should not be held accountable.
Plaintiff claims his constitutional rights were violated when she was taken into custody by Officer Dickerson. However, there is no constitutional guarantee that only the guilty will be arrested. …
While Mr. Haven’s actions included speech, a reasonable officer could have concluded that they were not limited to speech. Mr. Haven admitted to verbally disagreeing with Officer Dickerson. He also admitted to photographing the police vehicle and Officer Dickerson, and taping their conversation. Under these circumstances, it is not unreasonable for Officer Dickerson to have believed that Mr. Haven’s relevant actions, taken as a whole, constituted more than “speech only” and that the statutory defense of §38.15(d) was not established. Law enforcement officials who reasonably but mistakenly conclude that probable cause is present are entitled to qualified immunity.
It’s obvious that they are grasping for nothing.