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False arrest or unlawful arrest is restraint of a person’s liberty or movement without probable case or without proper legal authority. An individual is protected against being unlawfully detained under the Constitution of the United States which is the supreme law. The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” False arrest is a tort, that is, it is a civil wrong. Normally, false arrest is committed by security officers but sometimes police officers and individuals are liable for unlawfully detaining a person. False arrest can range from illegal confinement to kidnapping in which someone is transported illegally.
Can I Sue for false arrest? YES
A person can sue for false arrest of they have been arrested without proper legal authority and denied of their freedom. To succeed in a claim against a person whether it is a security company, police or private citizen it must be proven that there was no probable cause for the arrest. Where there is probable cause then the claim will be defeated. To show that there was case for the arrest it must be established from the facts known to the person that there was insufficient evidence to believe that you were involved in the commission of the crime. Most of these cases involve security guards that arrested persons because he/she thought they were about to commit a crime such as shoplifting but there was no actual commission of the crime. A security guard can only arrest you of shop lifting where you have actually attempt to leave the store without paying or concealed the merchandise rather than act suspiciously by carrying around the merchandise.
Failure to confine a person without probable cause infringes the constitutional right of an individual. Therefore, compensation should be awarded in the circumstances. Compensation can include loss of reputation and loss of earnings for the time you were falsely detained.
Can I Sue the city for False Arrest? YES
A state agency has qualified immunity which makes them immune from suit. The immunity shields government officials from liability regarding infringement of a person’s constitutional rights. However, to overcome qualified immunity a person has to show that:
- There was a violation of your constitutional right;
- The right that was violated was “clearly established” and a “reasonable” police officer knew he/she was violating your rights and
- The defendant was personally responsible for the violation of your rights.
Suing the city or municipality is possible when a police officer falsely arrested someone without probable case that is without reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed. The city will be vicariously responsible for its employees in the course of their employment when they were carrying out their job functions. However, before a claim is initiated against the city you should notify the city to enable them carry out their internal investigations after the false arrest; at the federal level this is not necessary. In New York, a Claimant need to file a notice of claim 90 days after a person was falsely arrested from jail. It is to be noted that failure to notify the city can bar the proceedings. Additionally, the claim should be quickly filed after the notice because the statute of limitations against a government body normal runs quickly.
Can I Sue a Police Officer for False Arrest? YES
A police officer can be sued for false arrest. Qualified immunity applies to government workers in any state including police officers. Police officers are immune from suit in false arrest cases. However, where the officer violated a “clearly established” law the protection no longer exists and a police officer can be sued. A person should only be arrested where there is probable cause which is a lower standard of guilt than beyond a reasonable doubt. Probable cause means that the police officer must reasonably suspect that you have committed a crime. Therefore, if the police acted on an erroneous belief or acted maliciously without cause then he can be sued.
Can I Sue the Police Department for False Arrest? YES
The Police Department has qualified immunity but if an employee violated a “clearly established” law, the department can be sued. The department can be sued because it is vicariously liable for all the acts and omissions of its employees. As such they need to be notified before a claim can be brought against them to allow investigation of the matter.
Failure to arrest someone without probable cause means that person can sue for damages because of the loss of liberty. A person can sue anyone who falsely arrested them. However, it should always be noted that government agencies and police officers have qualified immunity and they cannot be be sued unless there was a violation of a “clearly established” law.