In this case civil rights action Cozzi was arrested for robbing one pharmacy and for the attempted robbery of another. After he was released because the police found no evidence linking him to the crimes, he sued an officer of the City of Birmingham Alabama and several other law enforcement officers alleging a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unlawful arrest pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied the officer’s summary judgment motion and the officer took this appeal arguing that he was entitled to qualified immunity on that claim because he had arguable probable cause to arrest Cozzi.
The only issue the court had to resolve was whether the officer is entitled to qualified immunity from Cozzi’s claim that the officer violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful arrest. To invoke the qualified immunity doctrine the officer has the initial burden of showing he was within his discretionary authority. The officer met this burden without dispute. The burden then shifted to Cozzi to show that the officer violated his constitutional right and this right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.
For the arrest to be in compliance with the Fourth Amendment, the officer needed arguable probable cause to make the arrest. Whether a reasonable officer could have believed he had probable cause to arrest depends on the totality of the circumstances.