Over the last several years, police departments across the country have been under scrutiny – and for good reason. Many misconduct claims are filed against the police in New York each year, and one of those claims is false or wrongful arrest.
False arrest may be a much larger problem than people suspect in New York, which is why it’s important to not only understand what it is and what you can do about it – but also to understand your rights when interacting with the police. Here’s what you need to know.
False Arrest: What Is It?
The law affords citizens of the United States of America specific rights. You can only be detained or arrested in this country if there is probable cause on behalf of the police to do so. This means that a police officer in New York can arrest someone if they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or in cases where there is a legal warrant for the person’s arrest.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule surrounding a person’s behavior at the scene. Running from police at the scene of a crime or accident, for example, will likely lead to arrest. When someone is arrested without property authority or without adequate evidence, then that is a false arrest.
In most cases, people interact with police peacefully, but there are instances in which officers misuse their authority. They may do this, because they mistake a person for someone else, or because they are choosing to intentionally misuse their authority. Whatever the reason, if you’re wrongfully arrested, there is something you can do about it.
Who Has the Authority to Arrest Someone?
Legally, police officers can make arrests if they have probable cause or a warrant, but they are not the only ones who can detain someone or make an arrest. Businesses that hire private security companies can detain someone if they believe they are involved in some sort of disturbance or crime. This leads to more bad actors who can abuse their ability to make an arrest and wrongfully arrest someone, not just the police.
Is False Arrest Kidnapping?
Some people wonder: If you are falsely or wrongfully arrested, is it kidnapping? Although kidnapping and wrongful arrest do have some things in common, such as detaining a person without their consent, kidnapping is different in its intent – which is criminal.
Kidnappers are often motivated to commit the crime by money or the desire physically harm the person they’ve kidnapped. A false arrest simply doesn’t include the same elements or intent, so it’s not held to the same criminal standards as kidnapping.
The Fallout from Wrongful Arrest
Anytime someone is placed under arrest or detained, it can be scary, stressful, and inconvenient. In some cases, it can cost the victim money and take up a lot of their time in the process. If you have been the victim of a wrongful arrest, then you can file a case against the perpetrator in civil court.
These cases can be complex, often because, even if the arrest didn’t lead to a conviction or the charges were dropped, the police may be able to convince the court they had probable cause to detain or arrest you. Additionally, police have qualified immunity from prosecution for actions they perform within the scope of their legal duties.
Still, consult an experienced attorney to see if you have a wrongful arrest case.