If you’ve been wrongfully arrested or detained against your will by law enforcement, private security, or another entity or individual, it’s important to understand two things:
1. False arrest and false imprisonment of an innocent citizen is a violation of Fourth Amendment rights and demands justice and accountability.
2. You have a relatively short period of time to initiate legal action, so the hours and days immediately following the incident are critical for gathering and securing the evidence that will be needed to prove your case.
Contact an attorney immediately to find out if a civil lawsuit for false arrest, false imprisonment, or excessive use of force is appropriate for your situation. A consultation will help you determine if your case has merit without sacrificing precious time.
If the attorney determines that you do have sufficient evidence to build a case, the next step will be to seek monetary compensation for physical and emotional pain and suffering, humiliation, loss of time and liberty, damage to your personal and professional reputation, as well as punitive damages when appropriate.
In addition to ensuring that justice is served in such a case, juries have broad discretion in determining how much compensation will be awarded. Based on a sampling of cases, false arrest claims tend to yield thousands of dollars per hour that the victim spent in custody. If punitive damages are awarded, the total compensation increases, as punitive damages are awarded separately.
Although false arrest is a form of false imprisonment, the two are not the same. False arrest typically involves law enforcement, since one must have legal authority to make an arrest. However, false imprisonment may be committed by anyone and does not necessarily involve a false arrest.
In the simplest of terms, a false arrest occurs when a law enforcement officer detains a person without proper legal authority. The law is very precise in terms of steps and circumstances that must be met in order to lawfully place a person under arrest. These requirements were expressly created to prevent innocent citizens from being denied freedom or liberty due to being wrongfully arrested or detained by law enforcement. Most cases of false arrest that the public are actually aware of are publicized because brutality is involved or a lengthy incarceration; however, even a minimal amount of time spent in jail is harmful for the victim of a false arrest. A false arrest is a violation of federal law and state law, which entitles the victim to compensation for his or her losses.
A false arrest has numerous implications for the victim. Besides the mental and emotional stress of being detained, there are also practical factors involved in the resulting loss of freedom, such as disrupting work, family responsibilities, and other obligations, as well as the time it takes to resolve the situation. Unfortunately, individuals often experience irreparable damage to their personal and professional reputation as a direct result of a false arrest.
Also, being arrested is no minor event to endure. The mental and emotional distress can be overwhelming and cause long-term stress and emotional damage. Because of the severity of the impact on a victim of a false arrest, filing a lawsuit for monetary damages is not unreasonable. In fact, the officer and the municipality in which he or she is employed should be held accountable for causing undue distress, as well as violating a citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights.
While a false arrest is typically perpetrated by a police officer, false imprisonment may be committed by anyone – government employee, private security, loss prevention staff, nursing home staff, medical or psychiatric staff, employers, law enforcement, or anyone who forcibly restrains one against their will with a real or perceived risk of injury or death. In other words, any person who restricts another’s freedom may be held liable for false imprisonment.
Words, gestures, and actions that create reasonable fear that force will be used and injuries sustained if a person doesn’t comply with the perpetrator’s demands may constitute an act of false imprisonment. Even if a person isn’t literally confined, the use of language or actions that express intent to confine the victim may constitute false imprisonment. More egregious cases of false imprisonment might involve locking a person in a room or physically grabbing or holding a person. If an individual receives poor treatment, sexual harassment, or other harassment during the course of a false arrest and false imprisonment, compensation for the victim increases accordingly.
When physical force is used by a law enforcement officer against a suspect who is not resisting, or is subdued, or is unarmed (with no reason to suspect that they are armed), or when physical force or the threat of force is used to elicit a confession, the officer is likely using excessive force. The use of non-lethal weapons may also be considered excessive use of force when used unreasonably.
There is no set limit on the amount of force that a police officer may use when making an arrest, but typically, police departments expect officers to use the least amount of force possible when encountering a suspect. As our most highly trusted members of society, the assumption is that police officers will exercise prudence and exemplary judgment based on their viewpoint of the situation at hand. However, there are numerous variables for determining what an appropriate amount of force may be, such as the nature of the crime the person is suspected of committing, whether or not the suspect is cooperative, and the level of threat that the person poses. If a suspect is resisting, is armed, or is suspected of a violent crime or felony, the officer has more justification to use more force.
When a police officer goes too far, however, it’s important not only for the victim to receive justice and compensation, it’s also important to reassure the public that their safety is in capable hands with law enforcement. Not only has the victim endured harmed and a violation of their civil rights, but the public’s trust is shaken when police brutality occurs.
Just as police officers are given discretion to determine how much force is necessary in any given situation, when a case makes its way to a jury, the decision is based on what the jury deems reasonable based on the officer’s perspective of the situation and the suspect at the time of the incident. The jury will be most interested in how the incident transpired, as this is the information they will use to determine whether law enforcement acted inappropriately or within reasonable limits when meting out force.
An attorney will evaluate the details of your false arrest or false imprisonment and determine whether or not the case will be worth pursuing. If physical force was used by the perpetrator, that will strengthen a false imprisonment case; however, physical force is not a requirement for a false arrest or false imprisonment lawsuit.
Should you and your attorney decide to pursue a false arrest, false imprisonment, or excessive use of force claim, the end goal is a monetary award to compensate you for damages and suffering, as well as medical bills, court costs, and lost wages. In New York, such claims seek to compensate the victim for tangible losses, as well as mental and emotional distress endured. Often, such claims are settled without going to trial; however, the defendant may also face criminal charges in addition to civil liability, depending upon the circumstances of the case.
Compensation in police misconduct cases is complicated and impossible to predict, as the jury and judge have broad discretion in deciding the final award. However, a sampling of false arrest claims shows that juries are often rather generous on behalf of victims of false arrest and false imprisonment, awarding thousands of dollars per hour of confinement, in addition to punitive damages, which are separate.
The federal government and the state of New York consider false arrest, false imprisonment and excessive use of force to be serious affronts to the personal freedoms guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, and the legal team of Macaluso & Fafinski provides aggressive representation to help those whose rights have been violated.
To arrange a free evaluation of your case and explore your legal options, call Macaluso & Fafinski today at 718.364.4000 (in the Bronx) or 212.480.9000 (from elsewhere in New York), or simply fill out our convenient online form, and we will respond as soon as possible. The offices of Macaluso & Fafinski are conveniently located to serve the five-borough area and its residents.