Tolliver v. City of Chicago

May 16, 2016

The 7th Circuit decides Tolliver v. City of Chicago, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 6632 (7th Cir. 2016):

Under Heck v. Humphrey, a Section 1983 plaintiff cannot obtain damages in circumstances where the actual relief sought necessarily implies the invalidity of his/her criminal conviction. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Heck holds that “in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on appeal . . . .” Heck at 486-87.

On April 12, 2016, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals considered the application of Heck to an excessive force claim in Tolliver v. City of Chicago, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 6632 (7th Cir. 2016). There, two plain-clothes Chicago Police Officers in an unmarked vehicle stopped the plaintiff’s vehicle because they suspected drug activity. The plaintiff alleged in his civil suit that, because the officers’ vehicle was unmarked and the officers were in plain clothes, he did not realize that he was being stopped by police officers and thus put his car in reverse and backed up.The plaintiff claimed that when he realized he was being stopped by police officers, he sat motionless in the car with both hands on the steering wheel and his foot on the brake. The plaintiff stated that one of the officers had a gun and was shouting but that he could not hear what the officer was saying. The plaintiff alleged that while his vehicle was stationary and the gearshift was in reverse, he suddenly realized that he had been shot in the chest. The plaintiff alleged that the shot left him “paralyzed,” caused him to fall over and knock the gearshift into drive, and unintentionally caused the vehicle to drive towards one of the officers. Nevertheless, in his criminal case the plaintiff pleaded guilty to state aggravated battery of a peace officer. The question before the Seventh Circuit was whether the plaintiff’s civil claims – that excessive force was used against him – necessarily implied the invalidity of his criminal conviction to aggravated battery of a peace officer. The Appellate Court held that Plaintiff’s claims were barred by Heck, reasoning that, because the plaintiff’s version of the facts negated the mental state necessary to support his conviction of aggravated battery of a peace officer – intent – it necessarily implied the invalidity of his conviction and was thus barred.

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