Can I Sue for False Arrest?
Can I Sue for False Arrest?
If you were arrested or detained by the police or another person and you feel their actions were unjustified, is it possible to sue for false arrest? Under some circumstances, it is. Police misconduct does not always require a victim to receive a physical injury or suffer from police brutality. It can also be a case of infringement on one's individual civil rights. Even private citizens have been charged and found guilty of false arrest.
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What is False Arrest?
The legal definition of false arrest is the unlawful restraint of a person's liberty without legal authority. This charge cannot only be leveled against police officers, but also private security agents or even individual citizens. In fact, the false arrest charges that most often find their way to court are made against private security agents.
The most important phrase in the definition of false arrest is "without legal authority". Even though some arrests may turn out to be unjustified, if they were made with legal authority, they cannot be classified as false arrests. For instance, it is legal for a police officer to arrest someone during the course of an investigation of a crime. If that suspect is later found innocent, that does not constitute false arrest. The arresting officer had the legal authority to make the arrest.
False arrest charges can be filed against private citizens if they wrongly detain someone by making a citizen's arrest. A citizen's arrest is only legal if that citizen actually witnessed the crime being committed and can positively identify the criminal. They are also required to call the legal authorities immediately to carry out a formal arrest. If the situation does not fit all of those criteria, the arresting citizen could be sued for false arrest.
It is rare for a police officer to actually be charged with false arrest. In order for that to happen, the police office must deliberately detain someone who did not commit a crime. For instance, if an officer were to detain a black shopper for no reason and had no real probable cause, the shopper could initiate a false arrest charge. He could possibly receive punitive damages on the grounds of discrimination if the court decides in favor of the shopper.
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False Arrest is a Tort
False arrest is considered a civil crime, otherwise known as a tort. This type of crime is classified as a misdemeanor. In some circumstances when a person was illegally confined, the charge can change to false imprisonment. If someone was illegally detained and transported, it can escalate to a charge of kidnapping. The burden of evidence is on the plaintiff, however, and the charge of false arrest is often difficult to prove.
If you believe you have been a victim of false arrest and want to file charges, you should seek the services of a tort lawyer who will look at the specifics of your case. The lawyer will be able to advise you if you have enough evidence to prove a false arrest charge. Although it is complex, if you can prove your case, you may be eligible to receive punitive damages.
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