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False Arrest and False Imprisonment


False Arrest LawyersOur Experienced Attorneys Explain Some Important Things You Need To Know About False Arrest and False Imprisonment 

Although law enforcement officers, including the police, are legally permitted to arrest or imprison members of the public, these rights are not absolute.  In fact, there are important legal protections to ensure that these police powers are not abused.  Here is some important information about these protections that you need to know, if you believe you were a victim of false arrest or false imprisonment.

What is False Arrest?

Law enforcement officers are responsible for keeping communities and the public safe. They must both enforce laws and neutralize conflicts in the safest way possible.  However, officers must adhere to specific standards and processes in order to use this power legally.  Officers must have a sufficient legal basis to arrest a person.  An officer’s arrest of a person without a sufficient legal basis is called a false arrest.

A police officer must have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime for the arrest to be proper.  Probable cause does not mean that the person is guilty of the crime.  Instead, it only means that the circumstances of the situation are such that a reasonable police officer could believe that the suspect has committed a crime.   A police officer may rely on the statement of a credible witness to satisfy this standard.  In addition, a police officer may also rely on observations made that the suspect has committed a crime.

Police officers can sometimes detain a suspect, which is legally different than a formal arrest.  A detention requires only a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed.  Although a detention can be based only on reasonable suspicion, a detention can result in an arrest if an officer’s “reasonable suspicion” that a crime was committed is confirmed.

false arrest lawyersWhat is Racial Profiling?

Racial profiling is the police action of detaining or arresting a person because of race.  This is a discriminatory practice that usually targets African Americans, Latin Americans and Muslim Americans.  Racial profiling is illegal and violates a person’s Constitutional right to Equal Protection under the law as well as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment.  New York City has also enacted Local Law 71, a law designed to serve as a strong ban on racial and other discriminatory profiling.

What is False Imprisonment?

A false imprisonment by a police officer occurs when an officer detains a person without probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime.  It is not necessary to be confined to prison to establish a claim for false imprisonment.  Instead the law requires only that the individual be:  1) detained to a confined area; 2) without consent; 3) and without proper legal authority to arrest.

While claims for false arrest are usually limited to police officers, a false imprisonment can also be committed by:

  • Government employee(s);
  • Private security officers;
  • Loss prevention staff;
  • Nursing home staff;
  • Medical and/or psychiatric staff; and
  • Employers.

What Damages Am I Entitled To If I Was Falsely Arrested or Falsely Imprisoned?

The value of a False Arrest or False Imprisonment depends on many factors.  Juries have broad discretion to determine how much compensation to award.  Some factors that can be considered are:

  • length of time of the confinement;
  • treatment by police while confined;
  • physical injuries;
  • emotional injuries;
  • humiliation and shame;
  • loss of time and liberty; and
  • damage to your personal and professional reputation.

In addition to damages to compensate the victim, damages designed to punish the defendant may also be available.  These damages, called punitive damages, can be awarded if the conduct is particularly abusive.

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If you have any questions concerning false arrest or false imprisonment, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys by email or by calling (800) 762-9300 for a free consultation.  You can also get started by simply filling out one of our case intake forms and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.

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