What is False Arrest?
Suppose you have been detained or arrested by the police, but you are not guilty of a crime. Can you bring a lawsuit against the police department or the state/city/county which the department represents? The answer is a qualified yes. Depending on the circumstances, you may have a claim for false arrest under Florida law, and for civil rights violations under federal law.
To prove a false arrest claim, you must show:
- That you were unlawfully restrained against your will; and
- That the restraint was unreasonable under the circumstances. (See Dowling v. City of Fort Lauderdale.)
An unlawful arrest also gives rise to a claim under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code, the federal civil rights statute. To recover under this law, you must show that the defendant, acting under color of law, deprived you of a right guaranteed by statute or the U.S. Constitution. If the police arrested you without probable cause to believe that you committed a crime, that is a violation of your Fourth Amendment right under the Constitution to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.
The mere fact that you are innocent, however, is not enough to prove your claim. An arrest is not unlawful if the police have probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. Moreover, a detention that does not rise to the level of an arrest is not unlawful if police had a reasonable suspicion that you had committed or were committing a crime. The assessment of whether the police were reasonable depends on examining all the facts and circumstances surrounding your case. For example, if an officer arrests you based on false witness statements that the officer did not have reason to know were false at the time of the arrest, probable cause existed to support the arrest. If, on the other hand, you suspect your arrest is based on racial profiling, or you were arrested without a warrant, with the help of a knowledgeable attorney you may be able to recover on your claim.
If you are successful in a claim for false arrest, you may be able to recover monetary compensation for a variety of damages you may have suffered, including physical and psychological harm, losses from missed work, and damage to your reputation. Moreover, keep in mind that successful civil rights litigation benefits not only the individual plaintiff, but society as a whole by shedding a light on and subsequently deterring overreach by the authorities.
Consult a Florida civil rights attorney
If you believe you have been falsely arrested or detained by police, the experienced civil rights lawyers of The Baez Law Firm, based in Miami and Orlando, can help. It is important to note that under Florida law, you only have four years to initiate a lawsuit for these claims. Contact The Baez Law Firm for a consultation today.