You have a right to be free from unreasonable seizures by the police. Unless the police have a warrant for your arrest, they can only seize you for very specific reasons. If you believe that a police officer has arrested you without a good reason, you may have the right to sue that police officer in civil court, because they may be guilty of false arrest. Understanding false arrest can be difficult, so I have outlined a few situations below to help you determine what might constitute false arrest by a police officer.
Situation Number One
Imagine this situation: You are at a professional baseball game and you walk by a police officer. The cop doesn’t like the fact that you are rooting for the visiting team. The cop handcuffs you and puts you in jail until the end of the game. Is this legal?
Short Answer: NO. Police can only arrest when they have probable cause for an arrest – a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed. Rooting for the visiting team is not a crime. The police officer had no authority to arrest and detain you. You may have a lawsuit against the police officer for violating your civil rights.
Under both federal and state law in Connecticut, a “false arrest” is an unlawful restraint of a person’s physical liberty by a police officer. A false arrest takes place when:
(1) You are arrested by the police;
(2) You did not consent to the arrest;
(3) The police officer acted without probable cause.
If you are falsely arrested, you have a right to sue the police officer in court and to seek money damages for the violation of your civil rights.
Situation Number Two
What if the police officer arrested you on a suspected DUI, but it turned out you were completely sober? The police officer, angry that his suspicions about you were wrong, arrested and charged you with DUI crimes anyway. Is this legal?
Short Answer: NO. The cop cannot arrest and charge you with crimes out of spite. The police officer had no authority to charge you with crimes that you did not commit. You may have a lawsuit against the police officer for violating your civil rights.
Under both federal and state law in Connecticut, a “malicious prosecution” is where a police officer wrongfully brings unjustified criminal charges against an arrestee. A malicious prosecution takes place when:
(1) The police officer arrests and brings criminal charges against you;
(2) The court proceedings end in your favor;
(3) The police officer did not have probable cause to arrest you;
(4) The police officer acted out of malice (evil) rather than legitimate police reasons.
If you have been maliciously prosecuted for an unjust reason, you have a right to sue the police officer in court and to seek money damages for the violation of your civil rights.
Private individuals can be responsible for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Imagine a security guard for a department store or a grocery store that detains a person wrongly suspected of shoplifting. This is a false arrest too. If the suspected person was referred to the police, arrested, and prosecuted based upon the security guard’s improper motives, this might be a malicious prosecution as well.
These examples are fairly straightforward. But, most of these cases are extremely complex. The facts are never so clear-cut. Often the law bends over backwards to give the cop the benefit of the doubt, particularly when an arrest is made. If you think you have a claim against a police officer, you need a civil rights attorney in your corner. Contact us at 203-925-9200 for further assistance.