Thursday, May 16, 2024

Can You Sue A Police Department For Wrongful Arrest

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Why You Should Or Should Not Sue

Woman suing Scottsdale PD over alleged wrongful arrest, mistreatment

At the beginning of this article was the statement that you may need to consider a very important question in your desire to sue the police department: For What? This is where an experienced lawyer must step in to assess the causes of actions that will form the basis of your lawsuit.

Some peoples right to privacy has been violated due to an illegal search and seizure. Others have been harmed by excessive or unnecessary police force. And in some instances, people have lost their lives due to lethal force. These are issues that carry serious Constitutional violations and Civil Rights. When discussing these kinds of cases, even then the facts must be evaluated in order to make sure the actions of the police department were justified.

However, there is no shortage of cases where a simple inconvenience was suffered due to an investigation, or a brief detention/encounter on the street, or a simple traffic ticket was issued where the driver felt they didnt deserve itwhere a lawsuit would bring nothing but grief on the part of everyone involved. Its these difficult types of individuals who will find conflict where most would simply move on. Suing police departments is no small deal. Many jobs and careers can be on the line and a frivolous lawsuit helps no one. Its also these kinds of instances where the lawyer involved must choose to take on a case and decide to either politely and professionally decline the case or further evaluate the claim.

Bart Kaspero

Can There Be A False Arrest If There Is A Warrant

An arrest made by a police officer can be unlawful, even if there was a warrant. Arresting can be unlawful if the warrant was invalid.

An arrest warrant can be invalid if:

  • it does not name or adequately identify the person to be arrested,
  • it does not specify the crime for which the person is being arrested,
  • it does not say what court issued the warrant, or
  • police lied to a judge to prove they had probable cause for the arrest.

False statements by police have to be integral to the finding of probable cause to invalidate a warrant. If the judge could have found there was probable cause without the false statements, the warrant is still valid.6

Not all invalid warrants lead to wrongful arresting, however. The arresting officer can defend against a false arrest claim by arguing that he or she was acting in good faith. An officer can prove a good faith defense by showing that:

  • the warrant appeared to be valid,
  • the officer believed the warrant was valid, and
  • the officer had a reasonable belief that the warrant was for the person who was arrested.7

Potential Defendants In Federal Wrongful Arrest Cases

In a wrongful arrest case, there may be several potential defendants. First and foremost, the individual who was wrongfully arrested may be able to file a claim or lawsuit directly against the police officer and any other members of law enforcement who directly participated in the wrongful arrest.

In addition to the arresting officer, the victim of a wrongful arrest may be able to bring a claim or file a lawsuit against the arresting officers employer. This party is usually the police department or the municipality where the wrongful arrest occurred.

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What If My Arrest Didnt Fit Into Any Of These Categories

In order to win a lawsuit for wrongful arrest, your attorney will have to be able to prove that the arresting officer lacked both a valid arrest warrant and probable cause when they arrested you.

In other words, you will be trying to prove that your behavior and the circumstances surrounding the arrest were not sufficient to give the police officer a reasonable belief that your arrest was necessary, but that they arrested you anyway.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures which includes arrests made without proper probable cause. Thus, if you can successfully prove that your arrest was improper, you can win your case on the grounds that the police officer violated your constitutional rights.

The Constitution grants us sacred rights that protect us from overreach from everyone including the police. If you or someone you know suffers a wrongful arrest, do not hesitate to seek justice for yourself.

When Can A Legal Arrest Become Unlawful

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The rules set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 explain when and how often the police should look at whether you should continue to be detained.

So, even if you have been legally arrested by the police, there are circumstances where it can become unlawful, including:

  • If there is no longer a valid reason for keeping you under arrest
  • If you arent charged with an offence even though there may be enough evidence to do so
  • If the police dont follow the rules of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act

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Violating A Civil Right

When people claim that a member of law enforcement has falsely arrested them, they sometimes file a complaint alleging a violation of their civil rights. These civil rights lawsuits are known as “Section 1983” suits because they are named after the federal law, United States Code Section 1983, which authorizes them. These lawsuits are brought in federal district court.

People most commonly file 1983 cases after the police, prison guards, or other state officials use excessive or unreasonable force while acting in their official capacity, known as acting “under color of law.” For example, if the police obtain a search warrant to search your home and, while conducting the search, decide to use pepper spray on you and your family while you are restrained and not resisting, their actions violate your constitutional civil rights and you can sue them under section 1983.

On the other hand, if you and a non-uniformed, off-duty police officer get into a fight, that officer is probably not acting in his official capacity as an agent of the state and you probably can’t sue for civil rights violations.

How To Sue A Police Department And Win

If youve had a negative experience with the police, youre probably wondering whether or not you can take legal action against them. Even though taking a police department to small claims court can be daunting, it is possible to win. Even with laws like qualified immunity shielding police from some accountability, suing and winning against a police department is not impossible.

So, if youre thinking about suing the police, well show you where to begin. Moreover, well go into detail on how the entire process can be remarkably easy with DoNotPay.

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Get In Touch With A Civil Rights Attorney In Chicago

Making a complaint to the police department can be a waste of time since the police typically protect the police. If you want justice for your false arrest, you should retain an experiencedChicago civil rights lawyer to represent you. In addition, your arrest might also have resulted in adue process violation, which can also be an independent claim for compensation. Also, a false arrest often leads to malicious prosecution, a complicated claim that you should hire a lawyer atFoutris Law Office, Ltd. to file for you. When it comes to a false arrest lawsuit, you may not only have a claim against the officer who arrested you, but also against any other police officer whose failure to intervene is equally reprehensible. An attorney from the firm can help you defend your rights againstpolice misconduct.

Contact a Chicago civil rights lawyerto learn more about the compensation you may be entitled to receive after being the victim of false arrest.

Potential Compensation In A False Arrest Case

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False arrest lawsuits generally target the arresting officer, the police department, or even the township. For the most part, the lawsuit in these cases covers damages brought by mental distress and embarrassment. Other damages can include:

  • Wages that you lost during the time of arrest
  • Any damages to your reputation
  • Embarrassment
  • Other punitive damages

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What Remedies Are There For A Victim

Victims of a false arrest have 4 legal options that they can pursue:

  • a complaint against the arresting officer with the police department,
  • a motion to suppress whatever evidence was obtained from the false arrest,
  • a lawsuit against the officer and department, demanding an injunction, and
  • a lawsuit against the officer and department, demanding monetary damages.
  • By filing a complaint with the police department, a victim can demand the officer face repercussions for their false arrest. In the most egregious cases, the officer could get fired. He or she could also be suspended or retrained. In California, an officer could face criminal charges under Penal Code 118.1 PC or other statutes.

    If the victim was charged with a crime, he or she can file a motion to exclude evidence obtained from the false arrest. This motion is filed with the court in the victims criminal case. Any criminal evidence found because of the arrest can get thrown out.

    Victims can also file a false arrest lawsuit against the officer and the police department for civil rights violations. That lawsuit can be filed in state or federal court in the United States. If it is filed in federal court, it would likely be a 1983 civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

    Civil lawsuits face the challenge that officers may be protected by qualified immunity.

    The false arrest lawsuit can demand an injunction, which is a court order. If successful, the court can require the police department to:

    Compensation For Wrongful Arrest And False Imprisonment

    Whether or not you have been charged with a criminal offence, being arrested without cause can be a humiliating and demeaning process. If you think you have been arrested wrongfully and/or imprisoned illegally, you may be entitled to compensation.

    Our false imprisonment and wrongful arrest lawyers are experienced in suing the police for such misconduct. Our expertise in both criminal law and civil litigation ensures that your civil rights are protected and that you are rightfully compensated for any breach of these rights.

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    What Can I Sue The Police For If The Victim Of A Wrongful Arrest

    False imprisonment

    If you are the victim of an unlawful arrest, the time spent in custody is classed as being a false imprisonment. Because your Human Rights have been violated, and your freedom of movement restricted, you may have been the victim of a criminal act and a civil wrong.

    The amount of damages which could be received would depend upon how long the person was unlawfully detained against their will.


    If you are the victim of an unlawful arrest, you can automatically claim assault if you have been handcuffed or any hands were laid upon you with unreasonable force during the arrest.

    If a police officer disputes this charge and account of events, your case would depend on the evidence of other witnesses. If a case of this nature did get to trial, medical evidence of any injuries sustained would be needed.

    The outcome would obviously lie with who the judge or jury believed, but if you were successful the amount of damages awarded would depend upon the severity of your injuries.

    Federal Law And False Arrest Cases

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    False arrest is a violation of your Constitutional Rights, including the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable seizure of persons. A person who is arrested without probable cause can bring a civil action against the officer under 42 USC § 1983 for false arrest. The critical issue in this type of lawsuit, however, is the absence of probable cause. If the police officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, you may have a claim.

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    Unlawful Arrests And Lodging A Civil Claim Against The Police

    Over the last few years, Parliaments police portfolio committee has frequently raised concerns over the growing number of civil claims against the South African Police Services. Just last year, the Minister of Police was ordered to pay almost R600 000 in damages to a teenager who was unlawfully arrested and detained. The teenager was arrested on suspicion of robbery and was subsequently thrown in a dirty jail cell and assaulted by inmates. Unfortunately, this isnt an isolated incident. It is reported that in the 2015/2016 financial year, the Minister paid R300 million to settle claims.

    Our courts dont take the arbitrary deprivation of personal freedom lightly. Of course, the irony is crystal-clear: an institution thats in place to serve and protect innocent citizens ends up infringing on peoples rights. And yes- the police can break the law and even, ultimately, be held accountable for their actions.

    Naturally, with crime being prevalent in South Africa, the SAPS often have to make quick decisions in an attempt to be pro-active, and, yes, mistakes happen. However, it is an entirely different story when the police do not conduct a thorough investigation, display blatant negligence or arrest an innocent person. There are other contributing factors, too: often officers are under-trained and dont adhere to policing procedures, which results in them breaking the law or violating the SAPS Code of Conduct.

    Legal Rights & Protection Under The Constitution

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    What Are The Possible Benefits Of Taking Legal Action Against The Police

    Suing the police can be scary, but it comes with benefits if you win. For instance, here are some of the damages you will be compensated for depending on the type of case:

    Damages Case
    Economic damages If you successfully prove misconduct, you will get economic damages. These can make up for any financial loss including the loss of current or future income as well as the cost of all medical expenses .
    General damages If you experienced a loss for which a calculated cost cannot be easily obtained, you will be awarded general damages. This can include emotional or mental distress, or a significant reduction of enjoyment in life.
    Punitive damages You will be awarded punitive damages as a form of punishment to the defendant, and as a way of preventing other police officers from engaging in similar behavior.

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    How Much False Arrest Cases Can Be Worth

    The exact amount that a false arrest case is worth depends on a variety of factors unique to each case. If you have accrued medical bills as a result of your detention, they can be included in your request to settle, or your attorney can pursue their amount as compensation in your case. You can also seek damages for both your distress and the long-term impacts of your arrest, including lost income, lost employment and lost opportunities. Valuing these can be a challenge, which is why a civil rights attorney should be one of your first points of contact after a potential false arrest. You may be able to secure compensation not only for the income that you lost, but also for the income that you may have earned in the future, as well as bonuses, raises and promotions, that you were disqualified from due to the unlawful action of the officer.

    Because all of these variables affect each individual uniquely, the total compensation expected from a false arrest case varies widely. Robert Bryant, a well-known victim of false arrest, was awarded $625,000 for his case. While not all cases can be expected to reach this level of compensation, your legal counsel will do their best to secure the most favorable outcome possible for you.

    When Should You Sue The Police

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    Its important to know the specific incidents that present legal grounds for suing the police. These include:

    • Harassment. This includes any form of intimidating or tormenting behavior, including racial profiling, verbal abuse, unlawful surveillance or spying, false arrest, and inappropriate sexist, homophobic or racial comments. In order to successfully file a harassment lawsuit, you must be able to show evidence of these behaviors by a police officer or the department.
    • Discrimination. This has to do with any unfavorable treatment you receive because of your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, pregnancy or maternity. If you believe you have been discriminated against for any of these reasons, you can file a discrimination claim against the officer or department in question. Specifically, you must be able to prove that this is a recurring issue to make your case.
    • The violation of your fourth amendment rights. The US fourth amendmentprotects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures by the government or government officials. If your property is searched without a warrant, you have the right to sue for the violation of your fourth amendment rights.
    • The use of excessive force. You can sue a police officer or the department he or she is under if you have been a victim of unnecessary force. In other words, you will have to prove that the force was unwarranted and the injuries you sustained were directly caused by such force.

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    Claiming Compensation For False Arrest

    You could claim upwards of £1000 in compensation for false imprisonment lasting just one hour.

    There are a number of additional qualifying actions for which DPP Law can help clients make a false arrest claim, including:

    • An innocent person being arrested instead of the true culprit
    • A person is taken into custody without having their rights read to them
    • A person being arrested due to discriminatory factors such as race, or a personal grudge or agenda held by police officers
    • An arrest being conducted without a suitable arrest warrant i.e. one that was falsely obtained

    False arrest claim examples include a recent successful case handled by DPP Law. which was covered extensively by the national press. A Liverpool man was rewarded £35,000 in damages for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution by the police in 2014.

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