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Can I Sue for False Arrest?

Updated on February 11, 2013

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.

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.

False Arrest For Free Speech

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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      Lucy Johnson 11 months ago

      Two police cars came to my son's home. They said he was under arrest for a bad check written in 1999. They handcuffed him in front of his wife and young son and took him to jail. They had the wrong person; same first and last name, however his middle initial is "D" and the person that committed the crime is "C". My son pointed this out when they were booking him. He had never lived in the City they had listed for the person that did the crime. This took over 3 hours; officers were on OT. This was over a check for less than $60!

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      Lisa 2 years ago

      I am 37yrs old and from Chicago, Illinois and I am a recovered crack-cocaine addict. I was bad on the streets in and out of jail, and a friend tricked me to Minnesota to live with my parents who just moved from Chicago a couple months earlier,. I thanked God everyday that I was blessed with a friend that really cared about me enough to save my life. I’ve been clean since 2002’, since then moved to Minnesota, changed my life around. I have had a full time job and been married since 2008’. I was able to have my daughter that was 15yrs old at the time, living with me, after being away from her for so long since she was little. My daughter moved out when she was 18 which was 2yrs ago, but stayed in MN which she had my first granddaughter in May 2014’. Everything and everyone that I love was in my life, everything that I hate myself for neglecting when I was strung out. . I was stopped in Nov.8,2014 a block from my house and I’m a natural hyper person, the officer thought I was under the influence, I blew 0.00. He kept asking me am I on drugs, of course I’m not and mention to him that I used years ago when I lived in Chicago, and he ran with it, after taking me to station integrating me and asking if I know who sales in town here, I don’t know anybody and don’t want to know anybody, he takes me back to my car. He than calls me on my cell phone over and over for months harassing me for info I don’t have thinking I know who is involved in drug activity in my town . and telling me its them or me. I don’t even know who them is. I changed my cell number than he knocked on my door at the end of July 2015, 8mos later and hands me a dui ticket and said, :you should of worked with me”. He is ruining everything that I worked so hard for. Everything that happens true or false is in the papers here in Minnesota, so everyone knows your business. I lost a promotion I was working for, My daughter thinks I am back in that life again and cut me out of my granddaughters and her life, which she just had a second baby in Aug. 2015 and refused to let me see her. I need advice cause I know in there I eyes I'm a drug addict and my credibility don't mean nothing to them.

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      jake 3 years ago

      So i was arrested on an failer to appear and i asked my bond and they told me 5000 10,percent witch is 500 to bail so my girlfreind came and bailed me filled out the paperwork and then was released the next day they came to my girfreinds house looking for me saying i payed the wrong amount of bond it was actually 50000 10 percent wich is 5000 to bond saying i need to turn myself in ir the judge is gunna order another warrant and double the bond he said i got 2 days to report there how is this my fault wen it went through there hands they counted the money and they signed my release i have my bail bond and a court date they keep harrassing her houae now wanting me to turn myself in..or were they gunna hand cuff me and force me back to the courthouse to correct there own mistake please!!!need advice

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      john 3 years ago

      recently I was arresred by a woman police officer who I had an enterwith

      many months ago when a tenant in my mothers house was moving and refuse to pay his rent. he called this police and said them that he was moving because we have other three suits in the house I told the police he was aware before moving into the place. the police said the suit was illegal and my reply was that is not a police matter but that of the City or residential trubunal.

      the policed officer started looking for ways to punish me when another day we went to show a suit to another tenant and the occupant prevented us from going inside threatn us with a baseball stick and a sweges. and preventinf us from moving us the stairs.

      they called the police the male police told us to get a property manager

      if we are renting to people next time. few minutes latter the same police woman came and ask the police to arrest me because there had been too many police call to our house.she only listern to the tenants you told her

      I push her why she carry her fes months baby. and the brother holding the sweges to hit me I took it from him and throw it away to prevent him from using it as weapon against. told the police that I Assaulted them

      which I did not do, I was taken to jail and reloease latter.

      when we went to Court she told the Court of the aboce statements from the tenants

      and she also watch the viedo taken by the complanant brother.

      at the trial there was no evidence that I pushed her down why she carrying a baby and she did not take any statement from me or write a report.

      she actions clearly indicate that she was using the arresr as punishment for challenging her presence in a rental matter.

      I have been humiliated, spent thousants to get a lawyer.

      when few moths ago I complain to the Sergent incharge of the Mission

      police Detachment he told me they don't use previous action for vengance against any Citizen who is lying.?

      what type of action can I bring against Sidhu and the police department.

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      David mitchell 4 years ago

      I was arrested for holding pt. from hurting himself due excessive intake of hydrocodone. He started to hallucinate, swing, hit, yell in pain to. Tried to get to his car at 82 at night. Does not hear , see, or ever drive at night. As a caregiver its ethics to keep hazards away well he was also incoherent and banging on the bannister cutting, bruising, yelling for help. I put my arms around him to try and diminish his acts. No go. He finally stopped and laid on the green glass for er. Someone 50 and saw or thought I was harming him. Wrong. The cop gave battery to me and go bond said no contact in magistrate . 52 days later in state it was changed to or bond and no violence. I reunited.he was elated. I've been a perfect nurse for 20yrs. 13 with this elder. Months past and loud knocking and said come in, it was 4-5 black dressed task retrieval cops and two transport stating I had a warrant, no clue. Never received any paperwork. Later they said I had a no contact. Wrong. The states or bond stated no violent contact and of course none has ever happened. They arrested me, put me in jail for 24 hrs and released me, no reason but to say sorry.this an error by police that did not thoroughly do their job. I believe this is false arrest, imprisonment, and kidnapping. Upon arrival I should had reason why for arrest but nothing, I showed my state bond with a disgruntled demeanor and was attacked by 3 officers and thrown in a little cell. There are records unless police erase things like this but I retrieved state bond at the false arrest date that has date and, etc..tell me what think. Rev. David mitchell, nrse. Thank u

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      Profplume 6 years ago

      Not shooting the messenger of course, but phrases like-- "It is rare for a police officer to actually be charged with false arrest." and "Even though some arrests may turn out to be unjustified, if they were made with legal authority, they cannot be classified as false arrests."--- are disgusting.

      As a victim of what I certainly call a FALSE ARREST and ten day incarceration, resulting in job loss, followed by 13 months of court appearances and TASC (which can only be described as a 'probation for innocent people' requiring I be on time every month and clean as a whistle, lest they lock me back up and seize the $1,500 it cost me to be free, while the city forbade me from returning to MY home, lined with the constant threat of certain prison time, all without a shred of evidence other than an alleged statement from a person they couldn't seem to find---------I would say that there are few crimes greater than abuse of power and few violations more damaging than being accused of something you did not do.

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      qonewon 6 years ago

      These articles were quite informative. It's hub pages, however, that has put me on the right path in which to properly go about seeking help with my particular problem. Thank you HP.

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      Scott 7 years ago

      The Police and The good old Feds Are making up fake Drug Charges against me My phone is taped Jeep is buged and GPS house Bugged and Video. Y'all know how it is when you do nothing wrong that's when they want to try to lock you up GOD BLESS The DOJ AND THE POLICE.

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      Jeff 7 years ago

      On Thanksgiving Eve. I was pulled over on my way home from a band gig at roughly 2:30 AM. Obviously a DUI check. I do not drink and drive so I wasn't worried about anything at all. The Police had followed me for about 3 miles from where I left from and finallly pulled me over a few blocks from home. After seeing I wasn't intoxicated the officer ran my license. A warrant came up from a minor charge I had 3 yrs ago in which I completed a class and 30 hrs community svc. Somehow something had happened. After sitting in the county jail from Wed. eve. till Monday eve. We found out that the prosecutor in the case when looking at my file (3 years ago) had overlooked something and then also failed to send me or my lawyer any notification of a hearing of any sorts. I was incarsarated for 6 days and it was pure hell. I believe I have a tort claim. Any comments or suggestions?

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      Scary 7 years ago

      Some of these stories are horrific. You people should make youtube videos or something and build awareness. I found this site after searching for what to do when my name was spelled wrong on my fingerprints. Now, as far as my records go, I'm not me!!

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      Terry 7 years ago

      My son was falsely charged with assaulting a police officer. The officer told me at the police station that his chief wanted him to press assault charges on my son. The officer said he didn't assault him. The chief told him to tell the magistrate what happened when he did she said she wouldn't let those charges fly because it was not assault. He was charged with drunk in public and didn't listen and after putting him in the cop car his wife fell to the ground and he started banging on the window trying to get someone to help her but they wouldn't listen to him until the window broke. He was charged with destroying property. The officer didn't show up for the court and the Judge allowed my son to get help for alcohol issues. The prosecutor told me my son attacked the officer and grabbed the officer by the neck. I told him I don't know where he gets his information but he had it wrong. About a month went by and my son was recharged and they added assaulting a police officer. The officer came by my house four or five times and told my family and myself my son never assaulted him. The lawyer told us the officer backed his self into a corner by talking to us and in order to keep his job he had to do what the prosecutor wanted and that was to lie and say my son assaulted him. We spent every penney we had and the two separate lawyers we got didn't do or say one thing to help my son it was like they were working for the prosecution instead on my son. My son spent six months in jail for a crime he didnt' commit. Now he has a felony charge on his record. This isn't the only time this crooked kind of stuff happened to him. There is a lot more, but this is the latest. I've written everyone I could think of and no one will help.

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      Tom 7 years ago

      i was arrested for simple assault in the beginning of oct. The police thought i hit my wife but it was the lady next door. My wife told the police repeatadly that i didn't hit her but it didn't matter. Im thinking of suiting for wrongful arrest, defamation of character since the newspapers got it and also emotional distress on my kids. they saw the counseler today and explained to her that they didn't understand why i cant see them or their mother. (they are 5 and 6)

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      ajeshsasi82 7 years ago

      a person was arrested for driving tfalse byhe vehicle under the consumption of alcohol it was done by the police by mistaken doubts

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      Bernardo 7 years ago

      I was arrested this week while i was waiting in a friends car to get towed. someone in the neighborhood called the police based on a suspicious activity thought(waiting for the tow truck). The police got there and asked my friend and I to get out of the car. They searched the car and found there was aerosol cans. I explained to the officer the intended use of the cans. He kept searching the car and simply told me "I DON'T BELIEVE YOU I'M GOING TO ARREST YOU." I am 18 so there was no crime being broken there and before he took me to the jail he told me he was arresting me because he "THOUGHT" I was "GOING" to do some sort of vandalism. Was this right? could he have done that to me and took me to jail?

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      Tax paying American 7 years ago

      I witnessed people running away from a stolen car in pinehills and when the cops showed up, I tried to ask what was going on and that I had seen two men and a woman run away from the car, they told me to go inside this is a classified G-57 which is a term from the movie Rush Hour,that is one of the reasons why people don't trust cops anymore and why they can't solve cases.

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      joann Reda 7 years ago

      My son was arrested and charged with armed robbery, when the arresting detectives told me they KNOW he was not involved. the witness described the 4 men who robbed him as black. My son is white. He has an alibi, but still....sits in the detention center.

      All my life i have been taught to trust the police, and i have taught my children the same. NOT ANY MORE!

      It's no wonder people won't co-operate with them! They're liars!

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      crissy 7 years ago

      i had my back window shattered by a rock from a neighbor

      i called the cops and i got arrested!! The res. manager didn't like me, and i was moving out and he knew it but i was paid up 2 full months of rent which he didn't know hes only a res. manager he thought he was god, any way i got arrested because the officers didn't want to listen to me they took his side and kept verbally abusing me when i was trying to explain that i lived there and im paid up 2 months officer kept saying to shut the hell up! then the 3rd time he just handcuffed me i asked why he didn't even say why then he didn't even read me my rights his captain wasn't even on the scence and their were 3 rookies! they should learn the law before even attempting to do an arrest, its a power trip, so now i went to court and req a lawyer because they lied about the whole thing on the report they said i was trespassing, and the officer said they had a paper for my arrest in court they did not! They didn't even give me a paper and when i questioned the officer he said ur a liar i did give it to you he couldn't even answer my questions. and hes not going to investigate my window being smashed its a whole corrupted issue with them, i asked him why and he said you didn't tell me that when the incident occurred i said how could i when i had to shut up and i was handcuffed no one wanted me to speak. the legal system is corrupt and i think the officers should know their laws and stop misusing their authority. So now the criminal gets away and the victom has to go to court, and pay for my damage my self, and i suffer daily from the incident. I don't feel safe any more I should have just confront the guy my self, i probably would have caught him myself. I hate to say it but i will not call them ever again, not in this county that's for sure. I feel safer with out officers, at least i would get less grief.

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      naej 7 years ago

      on friday night i was suuround by 27 police afficers from all different counties in florida, and all with gun draw on me..they handcuffed me and accused me of robbery.

      i was told they were looking for awhite female in a black suv. the owner of the store came to the place were i was handcuffed and stated i was not therobber.

      meanwhile i find out the suspect is a black male in a balck suv...

      i will never be the same....still cant sleep..all those guns drawn on me...i have never been thru any of that before..

      so do i have a lawsuit?

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      Javon Lomax 7 years ago

      I recently went to the Boardwalk( a common outside dating scene/ shoppin center) with a girl I was meeting for the first time. It was still daylight, we stopped in front of a restaurant while she waited for her ride to come and we kissed. People passed us by, and awww on how sweet it looked. Suddenly the boardwalk police comes by and asks us for id, we present it, shocked, and he jokes that some people thought the girl was revealing her parts since she wore black pants and shes black and that we were having sex. We laughed with the cop and he left after giving us back our id's. We sat and talked maybe 5 more minutes and suddenly the cop returned with 6 more and this time they were rude and insisted that we had sex. Feeling disrespected and unheard, I pulled out my phone to call a lawyer I knew. The cop handled me roughly, my phone dropped and put me and her in handcuffs. We were charged with a felony viscinity and we feel we have been done wrong. First date turned into hell date when we were forced to spend the night in prison and be transferred to the county to dress out for another day. Both our parents bailed us out. We both our college students, we don't get in trouble. Now they insisted that they didn't have cameras when we told them that it will all be solved if they check them, can we file a case because of this...somebody please help me...

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      Cat 7 years ago

      my son doesn't know whether he has a case of false-arrest or not. They said they had a warrant for his arrest for a 10year old ticket. But the info on the ticket was all screwed up. His name was spelled wrong, dob wrong year, eyes, hair, address, phone# all wrong. Only his name and ss# were right. (first name spelled wrong) So he spent the night in jail, had to pay to get veh out of impound. He doesn't want his good record ruined, and wants to be reimbursed for expenses. But maybe this is futile from what is posted here? He has never received a ticket from this police dept, so obviously someone else used his name, but why was their ID not verified?

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      SDC 8 years ago

      We live in a police state, there is no land of the free this is the land of the Nazi style facist regime designed to put as many regular people in jail as possible, and keep the elite, the government in the lifestyle to which they have become acustomed, to anyone who is considering moving to America do not do it, you will regret it. This country has the most corrupt and unfair justice systems in the western world, you have little to no rights as a citizen, The police here have the legal right to use torture devices on citizens, electrocution devices and chemical weapons, they will use these devices and chemical agents on you to force you to bend to their will, do not come to America the system here will destroy your life, put you in jail and brand you for the rest of your life as a felon.

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      TheLawyerLink 8 years ago

      Our "protections" are just words. The bottom line is that cops will and can get away with anything they want. Unless you are connected and wealthy, your chances of winning in court against a cop is nearly nil. The police system is the most abusive, overlooked, unregulated, imbalanced and screwed up system we have -- and we are at their mercy!

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      chris 8 years ago

      Anytime someone calls the cops the cop always takes their side. They treat the other person like he is guilty until proven innocent. That is wrong. Everything is against the law now. So the cops always claim they have probable cause to arrest someone. Then if they know that they don't and a person gets mad for being falsely accused, they arrest them for disorderly conduct. Then they lie about what really happened. They constantly violate our constitutional rights like the right to remain silent and freedom of speech. Cops are some of the most evil people on earth. Nobody likes them and we are living in a police state.

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      whitetail 8 years ago

      A person can be held for up to 72 hours without being charged just for "suspicion/questioning". Rights do not have to be read if you have not been charged with anything. Happened to me! I firmly believe we ALL have LAWS we must abide by. That MUST include our, so called, justice system!

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      lena_matte 8 years ago

      I think may be? but if you are not convicted then u will release.............

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      Tiger 8 years ago

      The Law here very sucks

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      Stylez_G 8 years ago

      I was detained by the police after a crime had been committed that I was not involved in. I was booked in and placed in a cell for "questioning." I was in the cell for maybe an hour... Is this false arrest? I was never read my rights they just put me in a cell...

    • bountyhunter_ga profile image

      bountyhunter_ga 8 years ago from Dwasonville,Ga

      Well I have been a cop for a long time,I have seen a few injustices in my time and I have been the victim myself.

      We all have a story and it must be right if I tell it . Most cops enter upon this great adventure not harm people but to save lives and protect kids etc. Things get all balled and sometimes we loose our way when the letter of the law means more than the people we agree to serve. I may be wrong but I have found that compassion is so powerful of a tool and it works. Walk a mile in my shoes, words to live by.

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      fayonnais 8 years ago

      In my case a had parking tickets to pay($350) and was summarily given a court summon. I plead guilty anyway and set up a payment plan. Made a $300.00 payment to cover a 6 month period hoping to make the remaining payment sometime before then. I received a warrant for my arrest 2months after. Tried working things out to no avail. They denied I made a payment plan and their action was justified. I have papers to prove my position however, not enough funds to complete payment. I am currently awaiting my arrest now. Do I have a legal course should this happen? Feel free to chime in. Thanks

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      rzitting 8 years ago


      You people have some real opinions. I was arrested in sept on warrant 0001. At 9/22/09 I received a court date of 12/22/09. November 12 of 2009 I was arrested for the same warrant. What do you think I should do?

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      Roberto 8 years ago

      Dear Gilbert, maybe if you didn't steal in the first place this would not have happened to you...karma is a BI*CH. something to think about there Smart guy.

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      oldenuf2nobetter 8 years ago

      Not in Texas you can't.

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      John 8 years ago


      You can file a suit in Civil Court for false arrest and receive punitive damages. That being said, it is difficult to prove even though there was a mistake in your case. It would depend on your proof and the gravity of the impact it had on you. False arrest claims are difficult to prove and rarely won unless, you were physically abused by the authorities. The cost would most likely outweigh the benefit as Lawyers are expensive and this is a case I doubt that a Lawyer would take on a contingency. Since you were found guilty and sentenced to community service, you would have to have a very sympathetic Judge in a Civil Court to win your case for False Arrest. I have a friend that is going through almost the exact same scenario. The Court clerk failed to notate that when he completed his community service he would not have to appear in court. Low and behold he was arrested for Failure To Appear. The Judge saw the error of the Court and dismissed the charge. He was free to go. I have advised him to let it go for the reasons I stated above. If you believe your civil rights were violated, you could try the ACLU to see if they might help you. Other than that, I don’t see you have much recourse unless you want to go for it because of the principle. If you want to do this on your own without a Lawyer, remember this, it is said that, a man who defends himself in court has a fool for a client.

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      crystal 8 years ago

      The First Amendment protects citizens’ rights to free religion, speech, and assembly. This Amendment prevents government workers from retaliating against a person who exercises these freedoms peacefully.

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      johnjones 8 years ago from USA

      False arrest is really a big problem that confronts police authorities in the United States. It is indicative of incompetency and corruption.

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      Gilbert Perez 8 years ago

      I went to court for theft under $500.00 and was found guilty. I'll be the first to admit that I was guilty, and I was sentenced to 48 hours public service. I was sentenced on June 15th and was given until December 1st to complete my public service. On October 19th the cops came to my house and arrested me on a warrant for failure to appear. I had to bond out of jail and my next court date was scheduled for October 26th at 8:30 A.M. When I went to court the judge had the same paperwork that I had, saying that I had 48 hours of public service to be finished before December 1st. Other than that the judge couldn't even tell me why I had warrant for my arrest for failure to appear. According to the judge there was no paperwork saying that I had a warrant for my arrest for failure to appear. Guess what happened in court. The judge told me I was free to go, there was nothing else that could be done. So I wasted my time in jail, my money to bond out of jail, and my time in court, because somewhere someone made a mistake. For the people out there that do fail to appear in court, maybe because of a mistake on their part, there will be consequences. But when the courts make mistakes, who do they answer to? Especially if I had to go to jail and bond out because of the courts mistake. Are the courts higher than the law? Does the courts answer to anyone? Am I considered a victim of wrongful arrest, and if so what can I do about it? If anyone out there thinks I have a case against the courts and believe that I can file charges, I would love to hear what you have to say about it. Please contact me at

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      Paul S 8 years ago

      The police system is corrupt. That goes without saying.

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      concerned citizen 8 years ago

      The criminal justice system is corrupt plain and simple.

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      Maay 8 years ago

      My son was assured by 1) the local precinct TWICE and 2) the traffic court fines person that his ticket for failure to produce proof of insurance on his car should not have been issued, and was all cleared up (first at the initial officer's precinct and later when he paid the fine which he didn't need to pay but it was either pay the ticket or try to fight the thing in court - I would have fought the thing). Each time he was assured that it was gone, he no longer had worry about it, it was all cleared and was wiped from his record. Tonight he was arrested by a county sheriff's deputy and thrown into jail. The charge? A warrant issued on: Failure to produce proof of insurance! His payment proof was dated one full week BEFORE THE WARRANT WAS ISSUED.

      Who is supposed to be entering all this information in the police/court computers????

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      steve 8 years ago

      my daughters been falsely arrested 4 times because manchester cannot keep their papers right and file against the wrong social security number. Then they screw around for months addind points on a DL for events that never occurred...and want to be paid to fix their error..what ignorance and abuse of police power

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      samantha 8 years ago

      my husband has been false arrested for raping a 4 year old at the time this was spose to have happened he wont around her and the medical shows no physical proof of the justice system sucks...

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      ra 8 years ago

      previously falsely arressed and incarcerated for 30 days in county jail. Contact resulted when i called em 911 for medical; instead several offericers appeared and kicked in my door aiming gunds attaccking me ;requiring hospital care by the sherrif dept prior to jail admittence. The whole feasico resulted in the township offering no contest and release after 30 days in their "hotel".