Collateral Consequences of Pretrial Diversion Programs under the Heck Doctrine

By Gill, Bonnie | Washington and Lee Law Review, Fall 2019 | Go to article overview

Collateral Consequences of Pretrial Diversion Programs under the Heck Doctrine


Gill, Bonnie, Washington and Lee Law Review


Table of Contents

I. Introduction................1764

II. An Overview of Pretrial Diversion Programs.................1769

A. Purpose and Prevalence of Pretrial Diversion.................1770

B. Survey of the Specific Programs at Issue in the Circuit Split.................1774

III. The Emergence of the Heck Doctrine.................1777

A. Enactment and Purpose of Section 1983................ .1778

B. Enactment and Purpose of Federal Habeas Corpus.................1780

C. Tracing the Supreme Court's Heck Jurisprudence.................1784

1. An Initial Approach: Habeas Is the Proper Remedy to Obtain Release.................1785

2. The Heck Doctrine Takes Shape.................1786

3. A Split Court Revisits Heck.................1789

4. Future Convictions Exempted from Heck.................1791

IV. Ongoing Circuit Split on Pretrial Diversion Programs Under Heck.................1793

A.In Three Circuits, Pretrial Diversion Does Not Trigger the Heck Bar.................1794

1. No Conviction, No Heck Bar.................1794

2. No Guilt, No Heck Bar.................1796

3. No Habeas, No Heck Bar .................1797

B. In Two Circuits, Pretrial Diversion Bars Civil Rights Actions.................1799

1. If Guilt Is Still Undetermined, There Is No Right to Bring Suit Under Section 1983.................1800

2. If Not Clearly Innocent, Heck Bar Applies.................1803

C. An Undecided Circuit: Ongoing Diversion Bars Heck.................1807

D. Elements Considered by the Circuit Courts.................1811

V. Three Proposals for Resolving the Split.................1814

A. Exploring the Intersection of Federal Habeas and Section 1983.................1815

B. Focusing on Anticipated Future Convictions.................1817

C. Splitting Adjudication from Investigation.................1819

VI. Conclusion.................1823

I.Introduction

In June of 2003 Officer Billy Collins was called to a domestic disturbance in the city of Corpus Christi, Texas.1 The source of the disruption, Christopher DeLeon, refused to leave his home, and Collins attempted to take him into custody.2 The two men fought, and the police officer sprayed DeLeon with mace several times before drawing his baton.3 According to DeLeon's account, the two men wrestled over the baton and DeLeon eventually overcame Officer Collins, forcing him to the ground.4 DeLeon then backed up and stood against the wall with his hands in the air, his two-year-old child beside him.5 His wife stepped into the space between the officer and her husband.6 Officer Collins then drew his weapon and, as an unarmed DeLeon protested from across the room, shot at DeLeon four times.7 DeLeon fell to the ground, and Collins shot at him twice more.8 In total, Officer Collins hit DeLeon with four bullets: twice in the chest, once in the side, and once in his left arm.9

Once the violence ceased, DeLeon (who survived the shooting) was charged with aggravated assault of a police officer for his role in the fight.10 Instead of proceeding to trial, DeLeon entered into a deferred adjudication program,11 part of which required him to plead guilty to the charge of aggravated assault of a police officer.12 DeLeon paid a $2,500 fine and was put on probation for ten years.13 Following successful completion of his probationary period, DeLeon would become eligible to have his charges dismissed.14

Subsequent to his plea, however, and before completing the probationary period required by the diversion program, DeLeon filed a complaint against Collins under 42 U.S.C. 1983,15 asserting false arrest, false imprisonment, use of excessive force, and malicious prosecution.16 The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed DeLeon's complaint for failure to state a claim,17 finding that his suit was barred under the doctrine established by the Supreme Court in Heck v. …

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