Everything You Need to Know About False Arrest Lawsuit - AA Law

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Can You Sue For False Arrest?

April 17, 2024 Alan Ahdoot
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Imagine a scenario where you’re going about your day when suddenly, a law enforcement officer arrests you and accuses you of a crime you didn’t commit. Could you file a false arrest lawsuit against the police for misconduct?

While most of us would like to believe that such nightmare scenarios are rare, false arrests are alarmingly common in the US. Studies estimate that over 10,000 innocent people are wrongfully convicted each year. This number highlights a deep flaw within our legal system. 

The effects of unlawful arrests can be devastating and profound. Not only does it disrupt the lives of those wrongfully arrested, but it also causes people to lose trust in law enforcement.

That said, it’s vital for individuals like you to understand how you can protect yourself from false arrests. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss how wrongful arrests happen and explore what you can do if a police officer unlawfully arrested you.

What is Wrongful or False Arrest?

False arrest, also known as wrongful or unlawful arrest, happens when a person holds another person, the arrestee, without their consent or any legal justification. 

According to the law, a law enforcement officer must have a warrant or probable cause to arrest an individual. When officers arrest a person without a warrant or probable cause, they directly violate the arrestee’s civil rights

In most cases, false arrests occur at the hands of a police officer. However, there have been instances where private security guards and store employees also made wrongful arrests. 

Elements of False Arrest Lawsuit

To successfully file a false arrest claim, you must prove the following elements: 

  • The defendant intended to, and did detain or confine the plaintiff. 
  • The plaintiff was aware of the detention or confinement. 
  • The plaintiff did not consent to being detained or confined, and
  • The detention or confinement was not legally justified. 

Intent to Detain or Confine

Wrongful arrest claims are considered intentional torts. This means the defendant must have purposely detained or confined the plaintiff to be liable for the false arrest. 

The term used to describe the action varies from state to state, but the general idea is that you, the arrestee, were held and not allowed to leave the premises. 

For instance, if a police officer apprehends you with no reasonable cause and refuses to let you go, it can be argued that the officer intended to detain you. 

A man speaking to a female police officer before a false arrest
There are four elements you must prove in your false arrest lawsuit. 

Awareness of Detention or Confinement

For your false arrest lawsuit to be valid, you must have been aware that you were being detained or confined during the incident. You don’t have to be aware that the arrest is unlawful; you only need to know that you’re being arrested at the time of the incident. 

Awareness becomes an issue when arrestees are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the arrest. In these cases, the arrestee’s awareness will be questioned, which could affect the validity of their claim. 

No Consent

A false arrest claim will be invalid if the plaintiff surrendered themselves to law enforcement officers. Consenting to be detained or confined by a police officer negates the basis of a false arrest, restraining a person without legal justification or consent. 

Lack of Legal Justification

Most false arrest lawsuits involve allegations that an arrest was not legally justified.

There are two legal justifications for an arrest: probable cause and shopkeeper’s privilege. 

Probable cause is when a law enforcement officer believes the arrestee might have committed a crime or is about to commit one. On the other hand, shopkeeper’s privilege is a state law that allows store employees to arrest individuals they reasonably suspect of shoplifting. 

The exact terms of shopkeeper’s privilege vary from one to another. But they generally have the following limits: 

  • The Store Employee Must Have Personally Witnessed A Theft: A store employee will only be allowed to detain an individual if they witnessed the suspected shoplifting in real-time or through security camera footage. 
  • The Arrest Must Be Brief: Store employees can only detain a potential suspect for a short period, enough for them to conduct a reasonable investigation until law enforcement officers arrive. 
  • The Store Employee Must Use Limited Force: The employee making the arrest can only use force if needed. 

False Imprisonment vs. False Arrest

Some states use “false imprisonment” and “false arrest” interchangeably. While both terms are almost identical, they differ in how they occur. 

A false arrest is established by someone claiming to have the right to apprehend an individual. For example, police officers have the right to arrest a person, granted they have probable cause. If they apprehend a person without legal justification, it’s considered an unlawful arrest. 

Meanwhile, false imprisonment or illegal detention is a broad term for unlawful detention. There’s typically no arrest involved in false imprisonment. 

However, since law enforcement officers typically prohibit those they arrest from moving freely, illegal detention overlaps with wrongful arrest. 

Can You Sue For False Arrest?

One of the first questions victims of false arrest ask is whether they can sue the police officer who wrongfully arrested them. The good news is, yes, you can sue for false arrest. 

If you have a valid false arrest lawsuit on your hands, you may be able to claim the following damages:

Truthfully, filing false arrest lawsuits can be challenging, especially if you plan to sue public entities like the police. Civil rights cases against public entities are complicated. They require a thorough understanding of state and federal laws and a strong grasp of constitutional rights.

Due to the complex nature of false arrests, it would be best to hire a personal injury lawyer specializing in such cases.

File A False Arrest Lawsuit Today

If you want to file a false arrest lawsuit against a local police officer in your area, Adamson Ahdoot is here to assist you. 

Adamson Ahdoot is a premier civil litigation firm in Los Angeles. Our team of personal injury lawyers has over 100 years of combined legal experience. 

We have handled various personal injury cases, ranging from rear-end car accidents to complex false arrest lawsuits. Our legal team will tirelessly fight for your civil rights and ensure you receive the fair compensation you deserve. 

To learn more about our services, Call us at (800) 310-1606 today to schedule your free consultation with our legal counsel. 

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Our team can better advise you on your legal options once we receive any available evidence about the incident.

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