In Baranchek v. Fizulich, published April 19, 2017, the Second District Court of Appeal, Division 5 affirmed judgment for defendants following summary adjudication of a plaintiff's cause of action for false arrest and another plaintiff's cause of action for excessive force, both brought under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. One plaintiff was arrested for public intoxication. He matched the description of a suspect involved in a bar fight, and he had watery eyes, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol. He later sued for false arrest. The other plaintiff walked toward the arresting officer saying, "That's my brother. What's going on here?" He was tased. The Tased plaintiff was later convicted of resisting, obstructing, or delaying an officer in violation of Penal Code section 148, subdivision (a)(1). The issue at his criminal trial was whether the officer's conduct was lawful or whether he used excessive force. Two years after his conviction, and after the trial court in the civil case granted summary adjudication to defendants, the criminal court dismissed the conviction under Penal Code section 1203.4.
The appellate court held that the evidence established that the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest the first plaintiff for public intoxication. It further held that the trial court correctly ruled that the Heck v. Humphrey doctrine barred the second plaintiff's suit for excessive force, because a finding in the civil case that the officer used excessive force would necessarily invalidate the criminal conviction, which turned on the jury's finding that the officer did not use excessive force. The court also held that the dismissal of the conviction under Penal Code section 1203.4 did not eliminate the Heck doctrine's application. Heck does not apply if the conviction has been subsequently resolved in the plaintiff's favor, through an appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Section 1203.4 permits a court to release a defendant from all penalties and disabilities from a conviction if the defendant successfully completes the terms of probation. It contains several limitations. Most important, if the defendant is subsequently prosecuted for another offense, the conviction may be treated as a prior conviction. It is therefore not a favorable termination under the Heck doctrine.